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Google Gives Up Fair-Use Defense, Settles Book-Scanning Lawsuit With Publishers

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the information-wants-to-be-copyrighted-and-privatized dept.

Books 18

thomst writes "David Kravets of Wired's Threat Level blog reports that McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin Group, John Wiley & Sons and Simon & Shuster have struck a deal to end those companies' lawsuit against Google for copyright infringement over its Google Books search service. Kravets reports that Andi Sporkin, a spokesperson for the publishers, has said they've 'agreed to disagree' on Google's assertion that its scanning of books in university libraries (and making up to 20% of the scanned content available in search results) was protected by the fair use defense against copyright infringement. The terms of the deal are secret, but the result is that the companies in question have dropped their lawsuit against Google. However, the Authors Guild lawsuit against Google on the same grounds is still stuck in the appeals process, after U.S. District Judge Denny Chin rejected a proposed settlement of the suit in 2011, on the grounds that its treatment of so-called 'orphaned works' amounted to making new copyright law — a power he insisted only Congress could exercise."

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C'mon guys (3, Informative)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41557927)

Helllloooo [slashdot.org] ...

Re:C'mon guys (1)

alphax45 (675119) | about 2 years ago | (#41557941)

You beat me to it

I can't wait for the day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41557969)

when copyright goes away. That's when science/eng will truly go into overdrive.

Re:I can't wait for the day (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41558033)

On the contrary. It will lead to the collapse of society, and we'll be back to wiping our butts with rocks.

Re:I can't wait for the day (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41558087)

Hardly. We'll see some corporations rise and fall, no doubt, but the only real casualty will be small innovators. Anything you produce will quickly be usurped by companies that can improve and deliver it faster and cheaper. And it'll be the effective death of open source. No copyright means no need to provide source code, contribute back, or even give any credit whatsoever.

Re:I can't wait for the day (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41558147)

What's with the copy/pasta? How long are you people going to keep re-posting that lie?

Re:I can't wait for the day (1)

mumblestheclown (569987) | about 2 years ago | (#41558051)

Like in Somalia!

Re:I can't wait for the day (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 2 years ago | (#41558439)

Somalia hasn't abolished copyright.

Re:I can't wait for the day (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41558853)

Exactly, it certainly explains the piracy...

information-wants-to-be-copyrighted-and-privatized (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41557999)

Yeah, yeah, the department is supposed to be humorous, but obligatory point that these book rights are *already* "private", and the vast majority of new books will also be "private." The only way that could change is if the publisher puts a book into the public domain (and thereby cedes almost any eBook revenue). Whether Google had a fair use claim or not on normally published books doesn't change this.

Score one for common sense (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 2 years ago | (#41558081)

Making a digital copy of an entire book and re-publishing it online for profit doesn't seem like "fair" use to me. So, while I'll be the first to point out that copyright law is flawed, I'm pleased to see that Google is going to comply with it just like every other company (and individual) has to.

Re:Score one for common sense (1)

tilante (2547392) | about 2 years ago | (#41558405)

Making a digital copy of an entire book and re-publishing it online for profit doesn't seem like "fair" use to me. So, while I'll be the first to point out that copyright law is flawed, I'm pleased to see that Google is going to comply with it just like every other company (and individual) has to.

Sure, but Google wasn't ever doing that, and never had any intention to.

(1) They weren't ever re-publishing the entire book online, except for books that were either out of copyright, or no longer in-print and not available at reasonable prices. (See more about this below.) Only up to 20% of it, and they were choosing that 20% in a way that made it more useful for determining whether a book had information you wanted, but less useful for actually getting that information (e.g., table of contents was always included in that 20%).

(2) For most of the books, they were making no profit beyond any advertising revenue they might be getting from ads on those pages. To be more specific, they were not selling copies of the books.

US law already covers this, in section 108 of the Copyright Act. That section covers libraries and archives allowing copying of works and making copies themselves. Among its provisions, it states that any publicly-accessible library or archive can allow copying of works it has and is not liable for such copying, so long as they display notices on the copying equipment saying certain things about copyright law. (The individual doing the copying may be liable, but the library/archive is not.) This is what allows libraries to have copy machines and let you make copies of works they have, without having to have someone stationed there to make sure you're not copying too much, or to query you about the purpose for which you're copying the material.

Also, libraries/archives are explicitly allowed to make full copies of works, if the work in question is no longer available at a reasonable price. The section in question doesn't define what a "reasonable price" is, but that may be somewhere else in the Copyright Act.

Now, the law does say that libraries/archives can't get "direct or indirect commercial advantage" from the copying. I'm not 100% sure what that includes, but I'll note that quite a few libraries do accept money from advertisers to put up posters, etc., so simple advertising might not qualify.

Google setting itself up to the only point of info (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 2 years ago | (#41558085)

Soon only google will be allowed to do these things with these agreements while other competitor will be shut out. A nonruling on this matter will leave the landscape fragmented and behind the curve for decades. Which is a shame, I found way more books via google books than any other way. Usually doing research. Without the content search, I would never have found the books or bothered buying them - afterall my budget is only so large and I cannot chase after every book that might or might not have what I need.

Books publishers, even more than music publishers, despite the later arrival of mainstream ebooks, see where things are heading and are absolutely shitting themselves. Middlemen in a world of a rapidly shrinking middle. Google, otoh, has no problem monopolizing this new avenue, sign a few deals, and keeping competitors with less resources permanently out by assuring these companies a place for at least a little while longer.

It's too bad our government is so owned, because no matter which companies win, there is absolutely no representation for the public and public domain and fair use, and we all lose.

Licensed vs Pirated (1)

mumblestheclown (569987) | about 2 years ago | (#41558135)

Folks,

3 or 4 post in as I write this and already the naifs discussing complete abolition of copyright have sprung up. What will be lost in all of this, as always in these discussions, is that google could have damn well gone to the publishers / copyrightholders in advance and negotiate a fee for publishing such 'abandoned' works. Im sure the publishers would have been amenable to even quite modest renumeration and a fair arrangement could have been reached. this is how copyright is SUPPOSED to work.

Instead, this ruling is, while one hand good since it means that the world hasn't gone completely stupid and decided, as it seems to have in the case of youtube, where if a big company casts a blind eye towards piracy (just youtube search "full move" if you doubt me) while making HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS if not billions on advertising from it then it's ok, in another sense it's bad.

it's bad because there appears to be little or no punitive aspect to this agreement. let's review:

1. had there been a strong punative element to the settlement, then perhaps others would be less brazen about such willful copyright violation as google had engaged in. and let's be clear - that's exactly what it was. it was:
    - willful
    - commercial and massively for profit
      - not for any particular educational purpose other than incidental
      - MASSIVE in scope
      - by people who should have known better

2. if the ruling said that such works were indeed effectively in the public domain, well, while on one hand that would have been less than ideal, on the other at least this would have opened them up for all.

3. but no.. instead, what we get is some settlement where google muscles its way into paying pennies on the dollar, the information stays "locked", and there is no lesson for google except "we do what we want because we're big"

a lose-mostly lose situation for all. except google. they're laughing all the way to the bank.

don't forget folks -there is an option that is neither "insanely shortsighted abolition of all copyright" nor "information that cannot be used because it is locked down" and that is the licensing of said information by the rightsholder. you know, just like the GPL does it.

Re:Licensed vs Pirated (1)

icebraining (1313345) | about 2 years ago | (#41558479)

don't forget folks -there is an option that is neither "insanely shortsighted abolition of all copyright" nor "information that cannot be used because it is locked down"

That's what we have now, and has enabled what you described.

Re:Licensed vs Pirated (1)

cduffy (652) | about 2 years ago | (#41559505)

1. had there been a strong punative element to the settlement, then perhaps others would be less brazen about such willful copyright violation as google had engaged in. and let's be clear - that's exactly what it was.

I disagree -- the fair-use argument seems clear.

Yes, it was commercial. However, it was structured in such a way as to increase rather than diminish the value of the works so copied (sharing a subset calculated to advertise the value of the work while still leaving its market value intact) -- another major tenant. As for "not for any particularly educational purpose", that's hard to swallow -- web search educates the public as its primary purpose. "People who should have known better" presumes that those people view the fair-use balance the same way you do -- clearly untrue on its face.

Google's book-scanning program was calculated to serve the public good -- the same thing copyright as a whole is intended for. I find it severely disappointing that the courts failed failed to find this plainly so.

Re:Licensed vs Pirated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41563641)

You make this sound like the court decided something, they didn't. The parties came to an agreement and stopped litigation, no court interfered.

Some of these works are well and truly abandoned but the publishers don't want them scanned, it's silly! Likewise they have works they refuse to reprint but hell no they can't be scanned, again silly and very shortsighted in that information will be lost. Google wanted to save it....

In other news... (1)

DougInNavarre (2736877) | about 2 years ago | (#41558323)

Google patents user submitted site logos that depict moments in history and sues Slashdot for infringement.
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