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November 19, 2005

Anti-Google Critique Misses the Target

Pat Schroeder and Bob Barr, Reining in Google, The Washington Times, November 3, 2005. Pat Schroeder is a former member of Congress from Colorado and the current president of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), which his suing Google. Bob Barr is a former member of the House Judiciary Committee. (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.) Excerpt:

You're probably reading the byline above and wondering, "What could these two, from opposite sides of the aisle in Congress, possibly have in common with each other?" The answer is when it comes to Google's Print Library Project we have much in common: We're both authors and both believe intellectual property should actually mean something....The creators and owners of these copyrighted works will not be compensated, nor has Google defined what a "snippet" is: a paragraph? A page? A chapter? A whole book? Meanwhile Google will gain a huge new revenue stream by selling ad space on library search results....Not only is Google trying to rewrite copyright law, it is also crushing creativity. If publishers and authors have to spend all their time policing Google for works they have already written, it is hard to create more. Our laws say if you wish to copy someone's work, you must get their permission. Google wants to trash that....Just because Google is huge, it should not be allowed to change the law....Google envisions a world in which all content is free; and of course, it controls the portal through which Internet user's access that content. It would completely devalue everyone else's property and massively increase the value of its own....These lawsuits are needed to halt theft of intellectual property. To see it any other way is intellectually dishonest.

Comment. Nine quick replies. (1) A snippet is a fair-use excerpt. If you think Google's snippets are too long to count as fair use, then the AAP should scale back its lawsuit to the demand that snippets be short enough to count as fair use. Right now the AAP is trying to halt the whole project regardless of fair use. (2) Why do you care whether Google makes money? When a book critic quotes a fair-use excerpt in a book review, it appears on the same page as an advertisement. The publishing newspaper has a commercial purpose in publishing the excerpt. Does that negate fair use? Does it depend on how much the newspaper makes from advertising? (3) Authors who have nothing better to do than "police" free advertising for their books, and try to stop it, should lie down and wait for help. Meantime, other authors can write books and work with Google, among others, in bringing them to the attention of readers. (4) Google believes that existing rules protect what it is doing. It doesn't need to trash them. If you really don't know that Google has a legal argument, then see the many defenses of Google's project by lawyers and law professors that I collected last month. (5) You write: "Just because Google is huge, it should not be allowed to change the law." Did you really think Google disagreed? Just because you are angry authors doesn't mean that Google is harming you. Just because you are former members of Congress doesn't mean that you've got the lock on fair use. (6) No doubt, Google is taking a step whose legality is uncertain. But its legality will be decided by a court, not by Google. Did you really think otherwise? (7) Google is making some information free, but it's making other information searchable without making it free and helping users find places to buy it. (8) You clearly believe that Google's project will harm authors and publishers. But why not cite even one piece of evidence? (9) Why is it more important for you to disparage the arguments against you as intellectually dishonest than to restate them honestly and criticize them?

Source: P Suber OA News Blog, 3 November 2005

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