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Microsoft and Google – Different Approaches to Copyright

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The Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild is none too happy with Google’s plan to indiscriminately scan, index, and allow the searching of millions of books from libraries the world over and Microsoft is capitalizing on this rare chink in Google’s armor.

Copyrighters are claiming infringement because Google is making advertising revenue from the results of book searches in the Google Book Search system. Here are all of Google’s arguments that I found:

  • Google is doing nothing wrong because they only offer snippets of books within the results; not the entire book.
  • Google’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, David Drummond, says being in Book Search provides additional "exposure and in many cases more revenue for authors, publishers, and producers of content."
  • Google sees no difference between indexing books and indexing websites because they are both copyrighted and Google allows authors to opt-out of their search engine at any time.

Microsoft Capitalizes

Microsoft’s Associate General Counsel Thomas Rubin is publicly blasting Google for their flagrant abuse of copyright law in prepared remarks to be delivered to the Association of American Publishers. He claims that Google cannot be trusted and the only evidence that publishers need to look to is the current issues of copyright at Google Video and YouTube.

Microsoft is undoubtedly trying to benefit from publicly blasting Google as Microsoft is also making overtures to publishers while scanning and indexing books for their Live Search Books Publisher Program. In contrast to Google’s opt-out approach, however, Microsoft is only adding older books that are no longer protected by copyright law or newer books that have been exclusively approved (opted-in) for indexing by their legal representatives. From what I can gather this has placed the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers more in favour of Microsoft. That said I am sure Google looks far more appealing if an agreement can be reached; after all, Microsoft Live’s search traffic is insignificant in comparison to Google’s. For now, however, both representative associations are in the long process of suing Google for copyright infringement.

Ross’s Take: Google Needs to Re-Examine Its Values

I think the concept of indexing the world’s libraries is phenomenal but it should be done respectfully using an opt-in process. It is pretentious and unlawful for Google to require the rightful owners of copyrighted books to take the time to opt-out of a process that clearly violates the rights they already went to great lengths to secure. To draw a parallel… would Google argue that anyone can mass email without the permission of the recipients under the argument that they were provided with a functional opt-out mechanism? I think not.

Furthermore, Google’s argument that indexing content found on the web is same as indexing books is completely ridiculous. After all, many of the books that Google will index are not already online in scanned format so in essence they are now integrating content not originally intended for online use. That authors/publishers have not placed this content online must be respected and Google should require the approval of the authors or publishers before placing any of the scanned information live. I know this will slow down the whole process of indexing the world’s knowledge but that will always be more appealing than sacrificing rights.

– Is it just me or in this case does Google seem to have forgotten their popular mantra… "Don’t Be Evil"? I hope Google replies and provides further insight into their position. I wonder where the other major search engines stand in this matter?

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Microsoft and Google – Different Approaches to Copyright
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