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Court Rules Book Scanning Is Fair Use, Suggesting Google Books Victory

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the keep-on-scanning dept.

Google 54

concealment writes "A judge has ruled that the libraries who have provided Google with their books to scan are protected by copyright's fair use doctrine. While the decision doesn't guarantee that Google will win—that's still to be decided in a separate lawsuit—the reasoning of this week's decision bodes well for Google's case. Most of the books Google scans for its book program come from libraries. After Google scans each book, it provides a digital image and a text version of the book to the library that owns the original. The libraries then contribute the digital files to a repository called the Hathitrust Digital Library, which uses them for three purposes: preservation, a full-text search engine, and electronic access for disabled patrons who cannot read the print copies of the books."

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I really don't know who to root for here. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41625013)

I haven't been able to make up my mind on this one.

On one hand, it's deplorable that Google isn't paying tribute to authors.

On the other hand, they're using books from libraries, books intended to be shared.

I think Google just accidentally broke the system. Perhaps it was not Google, but the digital age itself, that did the actual breaking.

Either way, a hole has been found in current fair use theory / ways libraries operate. Now it's either going to get plugged or become a gaping chasm.

It's a tough nut to crack.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41625147)

it's deplorable that Google isn't paying tribute to authors

What? By most accounts (by actual authors), being in the DB gets your books sold. Only the BS Authors Guild thinks this is a problem.

The interesting thing is that there's a massive, consistent and complete, collaborative digital archive of library print books and journals somewhere. If an Anon group wanted to do something really crazy, they'd pilfer that massive cache and release it unto the world.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41625177)

What? By most accounts (by actual authors), being in the DB gets your books sold. Only the BS Authors Guild thinks this is a problem.

True, I suppose, but would it really have killed Google to just go out and buy a single copy of each book they scan? I think that would be more fair, and negligible in terms of cost to the almighty Google.

The interesting thing is that there's a massive, consistent and complete, collaborative digital archive of library print books and journals somewhere. If an Anon group wanted to do something really crazy, they'd pilfer that massive cache and release it unto the world.

That would be interesting..

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41625249)

True, I suppose, but would it really have killed Google to just go out and buy a single copy of each book they scan? I think that would be more fair, and negligible in terms of cost to the almighty Google.

These are old books that you can't get anywhere else. At what store do you believe Google can buy them, Barnes and Noble? Do you think they're getting them from libraries to be cheap?

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41627817)

Do you think they're getting them from libraries to be cheap?

Did they buy a copy of each book that was available retail?

No - they were being cheap.

Look, if you or I did this and ran a similar website we'd be shutdown and imprisoned.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41628875)

The books aren't "available retail", they're out of print and orphaned. In most cases they haven't been "available retail" for half a century.

Side with better access for the public (5, Informative)

Namarrgon (105036) | about 2 years ago | (#41625787)

A major aim of the project was to digitally preserve books that are out of print. Most of these can't be bought, by anyone.

Also, the authors of a significant fraction of these books cannot be located. So while many of these books are still covered by copyright, there's nobody available to pay anything to, or to get consent from (well, the Authors Guild might nominate themselves as "default" copyright holders somehow). For these books, proceeds from sales are held separately in trust, against future claims if the authors are eventually located. For the rest, identified authors naturally get the lion's share of sales. Google also profits from advertising, but authors are entitled to a 63% share of this too. And under various versions of the settlement, authors could even claim $60 per book, while Google does the all work of making their books more available to the public.

Money is not the issue; it's control - the Guild (and some actual authors) are mostly objecting that Google didn't ask first.

Re:Side with better access for the public (2)

sphealey (2855) | about 2 years ago | (#41626309)

- - - - Also, the authors of a significant fraction of these books cannot be located.

Hmmm... incentives tend to matter. Under the Google archive plan, who has the incentive to go out and search diligently for the legal holders of copyright and publishing rights? 80 year old author starving in a garret, never received his last royalties due from his publishing house, who is going to work their butts off to find and pay him before they start selling his work from the archive?

The key point that much be brought up in these discussions is this: Google is a money-making machine. Period. It exists to make metric tons of money for its owners and officers. Period. It might do some interesting things, even some nice things, along the way - but it exists to make money. Who is making the money on this scheme, how, and what are the incentives to pay whom? Be helpful to get some straight answers to those questions.

sPh

Re:Side with better access for the public (4, Informative)

Namarrgon (105036) | about 2 years ago | (#41626451)

The one with the most incentive is the one receiving the money; i.e. the author, the author's publisher, and possible any guilds to which the author may pay dues. As with most fields of business, if you want to collect money owed to you, you occasionally need to chase it up yourself (as your example demonstrates, if the putative author is having difficulty getting royalties from his existing publisher; maybe he'll have more luck if he contacts Google).

And I think quite a few Googlers might take exception to your characterising Google as "a money-making machine, period"; particularly Larry and Sergey. They've sunk a fair bit of cash into risky, public-benefit projects with no guaranteed return.

Re:Side with better access for the public (2)

sphealey (2855) | about 2 years ago | (#41629115)

- - - - As with most fields of business, if you want to collect money owed to you, you occasionally need to chase it up yourself (as your example demonstrates, if the putative author is having difficulty getting royalties from his existing publisher; maybe he'll have more luck if he contacts Google). - - - -

Many authors characterize that as "stealing from the helpless". Isaac Asimov wrote quite a bit about the difficulties he had extracting his royalties from various publishing houses, and that was at a point in his career where he was famous, reasonably wealthy, and could afford good lawyers to fight the thieves.

I'm fascinated by these romantic notions that people have about Google Inc. It did start out as an interesting research project by its founders. However, those founders then took venture capital money to "monetize" their research, indenturing themselves to the venture capital providers, and transformed their business into a gigantic advertising and personal data mining operation. They then took their business public, and today Google Inc. is a corporation publicly traded on the US markets whose stock price has risen from $100 at offer to $700. Its officers have a fiduciary duty to make money for their investors regardless of what the founders may have going in the way of small projects. And frankly, I have seen exactly zero public evidence that Page and Brin have any qualms about the money-vacuuming side of Google; certainly neither they nor Mr. Schmidt have any concerns about the affect of their actions on personal privacy.

sPh

Re:Side with better access for the public (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41629359)

So - any entity that makes money is automatically (as a consequence of making money) designated as "evil" ?
Interesting attitude.
If you are unable to create a society that ensures that Capitalism is optimally harnessed, then poverty will be waiting just around the corner. (Note: the US appears to have been successful in this.. until about 30-40 years ago. I no longer consider the US as a beacon of freedom and capitalism.)
I think I would not like to live in the society you describe (where success is punished), as such a society will not be self sustainable and will inevitably lead to poverty and oppression of its citizens.

Re:Side with better access for the public (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41626841)

Please stop being idiotic. If said 80 year old cannot be contacted, and is not receiving royalties from the publishing house, he will not be getting royalties anyways, even if payments were made, right? Book payments are always made to the publishing houses, you moron. Please let me know, how many times you actually went and sought out the authors of the book you bought. By your moronic logic, the hypothetical 80 year old will still starve, since Google will simply find the plan financially unfeasible and not scan such books anyways. Your RIAA, MPAA and such copyright parasites simply adopt the attitude that they will rather burn such out-of-print works, rather than let someone read it for free. They are the only ones who are really losing any money on this. Honestly speaking, if I really liked the digital copy, I would quite likely be interested in possessing the print copy(if one is available) to read at leisure(without straining my eyes on a screen). If nothing else, it helps in preserving the works. It is not like the said publishing houses care a lot about such authors, or are interested in preserving culture, knowledge for the sake of it.They are the ones who made the most money off such works, and if this was an actual regulated industry, they would be highly unethical and exploitative since they failed to provide any pension, healthcare to the "employees" they made so much money out of. But your trolling is apparently reserved just for Google. God forbid an out-of-print book that will not see a further penny be given out for free, rather than going out-of-print and being lost to the human knowledge repository. You sir, are just a plain transparent shill or a complete moron.

Re:Side with better access for the public (1)

nbauman (624611) | about 2 years ago | (#41626987)

Google is a money-making machine. Period. It exists to make metric tons of money for its owners and officers. Period.

Google exists for at least 2 reasons: (1) To make money (2) To do cool things.

There are other companies that exist only to make money, by selling penis enlargement pills or leveraged mortgages, etc.

But it's clear that Brinn and Page are in business for other reasons too.

Besides, after the first $100 million, you really don't need any more money.

Re:Side with better access for the public (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 2 years ago | (#41627987)

I think there's something called "due dilligence". You could expect Google to try and track down the publisher or author. You might even expect them to go through available public records to track down the author if the publisher is no longer in business. You cannot reasonably expect them to go beyond that, hire private detectives, research archives or genealogy and invest large sums of money in order to search for somebody they will likely not find. Did Google do due dilligence or not?

Re:Side with better access for the public (1)

pantaril (1624521) | about 2 years ago | (#41655857)

The key point that much be brought up in these discussions is this: Google is a money-making machine. Period. It exists to make metric tons of money for its owners and officers. Period. It might do some interesting things, even some nice things, along the way - but it exists to make money. Who is making the money on this scheme, how, and what are the incentives to pay whom? Be helpful to get some straight answers to those questions.

Why do money matter? Copyright is not there to provide money to people. It's there to promote creation of new culture and science. What google does (making an archive of existing works) is very much in spirit of copyright as it enables authors to easily access and build upon existing knowledge.

Btw why are you spelling 'period' literally?

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (0)

sphealey (2855) | about 2 years ago | (#41626287)

What is the legal definition of a "snippet"? Can you please point to the language in the US Copyright Act or the various international copyright treaties where "snippet" is defined? Thanks.

sPh

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (1)

nbauman (624611) | about 2 years ago | (#41626963)

"Snippit -- an extract small enough to qualify as fair use under the copyright laws."

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (0)

sphealey (2855) | about 2 years ago | (#41629121)

In other words, there is no legal definition - it means whatever Google wants it to mean. Which was exactly Ursula K. LeGuin's point.

sPh

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41629445)

Right. Can you show us an actual example, where Google is abusing the concept of a snippet? Have they posted a significant portion of any copyrighted book, calling it a snippet? Or is this one of those "oh my god, I just know they will do it in future, so I wanna stop them NOW, even if they are not doing it" things?

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41625229)

On one hand, it's deplorable that Google isn't paying tribute to authors.

You need to get more info on this - Google is doing authors a favor here. They're taking tons of out of print and generally unavailable books, making them available online, and allowing authors who claim them to get most of the proceeds from their sales.

Similarities to the Big Media / Indie squeeze (1)

PPalmgren (1009823) | about 2 years ago | (#41631259)

I think I finally see why the Author's guild is protesting. They don't care about authors who aren't under their umbrella, and the existence of more publically available work not under their umbrella cuts them out of the pie. Its analogous to how Big Media negotiates with radio/etc for exclusivity, and they're only allowed to play their music.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41625747)

By tribute you mean royalties? They've already gotten paid for their work, that's good enough.

Maybe I should get paid royalties for every plastic bottle I help recycle at work tonight that is eventually reused to sell more milk, water or laundry detergent. I think a penny per bottle made ougtta suffice. With that money on top of my paycheck, I'm sure to have an easy life!

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#41628453)

Uh-huh. Right, if you were to get a cent on every bottle, the bottle would go up in price by a cent. No-one's richer.

There's a fixed amount of money in the pot -- it's a question of when and where it gets distributed. You presumably have a stable job. You are paid monthly, come rain or shine. The author doesn't get that stable paycheque -- he is essentially gambling his labour value against the market. Your attitude seems to be that no-one's allowed to win the bet, but I'm guessing you're happy for people to lose the bet though -- you wouldn't propose funding any old hack a living wage for a book that's not worth reading, would you?

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (1)

sphealey (2855) | about 2 years ago | (#41629131)

- - - - Your attitude seems to be that no-one's allowed to win the bet, - - - -

The people taking the line similar to the post to which you responded don't seem to have a problem with Google subverting the bet and vacuuming up the cash, though ;-)

sPh

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (1)

sjdaniels (610777) | about 2 years ago | (#41629133)

There is a 10c deposit here in South Australia for every can, bottle, plastic container sold, which is paid to you when returned to recycling centre. National moves are being made for implementation across country. Less rubbish, Geater recycling, business creation through return scheme. Zero sum cost price however great benefits for numerous other spinoffs.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#41629383)

Germany has a similar system, where it's (IIRC) 5. I think it's also done in Belgium.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#41629387)

Damn non-Unicode - there's meant to be a cent symbol in there.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41629613)

I think all scandinavian countries too, know for sure it is in Denmark, and Finland, and strongly suspect the others too

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (3, Interesting)

RocketRabbit (830691) | about 2 years ago | (#41626235)

"On one hand, it's deplorable that Google isn't paying tribute to authors."

Most of them are dead, and their works are in the public domain. For those that aren't you just get a tiny snippet view which encourages you to buy the very expensive out of print books, or buy the books from a publisher.

This is all about Google's ability to sell books, and the publishers don't like that. They sell books because you can search and bam, there's the book you need. No need to get it from a publisher.

Authors win here too, especially ones who will not typically be joined with a publisher.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (3, Informative)

sh00z (206503) | about 2 years ago | (#41631741)

Most of them are dead, and their works are in the public domain. For those that aren't you just get a tiny snippet view which encourages you to buy the very expensive out of print books, or buy the books from a publisher.

OK, I'm giving up moderator rights to post this, so you can tell I'm serious. The statement above is absolutely incorrect. This is NOT about public domain. There's no question that Google (or anybody else) can redistribute PD works. This is about Google scanning and then re-selling out-of-print, but in-copyright works. The proposed settlement would give Google the exclusive right to violate copyright and re-sell these works. Sure, they would provide compensation to the authors, but the settlement is inherently anti-competitive in granting this privilege to a single entity.

So, I also violently disagree with the original poster that this decision provides any indication of the final disposition. The decision today only says that it's fair use to do the scanning. The judge shown that he is not predisposed to grant Google a monopoly in sales.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41627029)

Obscurity is more fatal to aspiring artists than piracy. If no one knows you exist then there is no way they can pay for your work.

A good book on the topic is The Pirate's Dilemma: How Youth Culture Is Reinventing Capitalism [amazon.com] .

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#41627107)

I think Google just accidentally broke the system. Perhaps it was not Google, but the digital age itself, that did the actual breaking.

Google's been scanning old books & magazines, stuff that's been out of print for ages and probably by rights already should be public domain, depending on the copyright date.

Re:I really don't know who to root for here. (2)

sphealey (2855) | about 2 years ago | (#41629143)

- - - - Google's been scanning old books & magazines, stuff that's been out of print for ages and probably by rights already should be public domain, depending on the copyright date. - - - -

Uh, no. That may be the basis of the scanning project, but Google has been putting a lot more stuff than just "old" scanned books into Google Books. And by the way, many works whose authors have died are still under copyright according to the various laws that were in effect at the time of their publication.

sPh

THIS court finds the story a dupe (4, Informative)

1800maxim (702377) | about 2 years ago | (#41625081)

rss.slashdot.org/~r/Slashdot/slashdot/~3/leotg9DJN_g/court-finds-in-favor-of-libraries-in-google-books-affair

Re:THIS court finds the story a dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41625123)

Not only that, this whole story is a DUPE!
Why hasn't someone made that point yet?

Re:THIS court finds the story a dupe (0)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 2 years ago | (#41625367)

This isn't just a dupe, both articles appear on the front page at the same time!

Re:THIS court finds the story a dupe (2)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 2 years ago | (#41625563)

It's not just a dupe, it's less accurate. The previous story at least has a title that makes it clear that they ruled in favor of libraries, not Google. There's a big difference, since it's Google doing the actual copying, not the libraries. If I rent a movie from Redbox, rip it and bittorrent, who's going to get in trouble - me or Redbox? Whether or not Google will get in trouble hasn't been decided yet.

Same-page dupe. (0)

Revotron (1115029) | about 2 years ago | (#41625105)

I would feign surprise and outrage but this isn't the first same-page dupe I've seen on Slashdot. This site must be edited by goldfish. *golf clap*

Linking is fair use too. Dynamic and static links (1)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about 2 years ago | (#41625117)

If it is OK to scan documents for fair use and it is OK to break DRM then linking to GPL'ed code without having to be GPL'ed should be legal as well under interoperability terms.

Your rights end where mine begin. If you expose an API in your library then I have a right to link to it. As long as I do not copy the code into my codebase then you should have no say in how my code is licensed.

Re:Linking is fair use too. Dynamic and static lin (5, Funny)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#41625135)

Obviously, samzenpus is trying to prove that copying is fair use by copying Timothy's front page article....

Yes! (4, Funny)

chill (34294) | about 2 years ago | (#41625217)

That is the Slashdot I know and love! A dupe while the original article is still on the front page!

I feel like having a bowl of hot grits and watching a movie with Natalie Portman in it.

Re:Yes! (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 2 years ago | (#41627947)

Can you imagine a Beowulf cluster of dupes?

Re:Yes! (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 years ago | (#41628463)

In Soviet Russia, cluster of Beowulf dupes you!

Is this going to help the Yankees win? (0)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#41625373)

This sounds cool and all and may somehow affect my life but the Yankees are playing like crap and that has me worried

Get off of here. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41625639)

We don't want to hear about your dumb American football.

DUPLICATE SUBMISSION (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about 2 years ago | (#41625571)

Honestly, do the editors even bother to read... oh, never mind.

Re:DUPLICATE SUBMISSION (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#41626751)

You think samzenpus can read?

Re:DUPLICATE SUBMISSION (2)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#41627767)

To respond to all you 'perfect' people who've been piling on here...

Have any of you had a miscommunication, never made a mistake while trying to do your job? It was a screwup, yeah, so what? I swear, some of you guys who post are real jerks. Shit happens, get over it already. Go to your mirrors, all of you, and if you see someone who's never made a mistake, on the job and in private, then you're either a frickin' computer or a liar. F#@*ing whiny a#%$@#es!

Re:DUPLICATE SUBMISSION (1)

Desler (1608317) | about 2 years ago | (#41630409)

Except that samzenpus has years of history of duping stories on the same day that another editor has posted them.

Re:DUPLICATE SUBMISSION (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#41630481)

Oh, see I don't know the /. history in many areas, been on/off reader for 3 years, just began to post a few months ago. I'd just went off a little bit there, I apologize if my 'rant' was uncalled for. I will try to keep refining my behavior on /. .

Project Gutenberg (1)

SternisheFan (2529412) | about 2 years ago | (#41627023)

Back when.home.computing was stillyoung, years before there was a google, there was.Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org] , where volunteers donated their time and typed in and proofread books. They are still a prescence on the web, though they've had to take down.books due to.copyright restrictions. It was and still is a noble cause.

Re:Project Gutenberg (1)

sphealey (2855) | about 2 years ago | (#41629149)

- - - - Back when.home.computing was stillyoung, years before there was a google, there was.Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org] [gutenberg.org] , where volunteers donated their time and typed in and proofread books. - - - -

Last I checked, however, Project Gutenberg only captured text of books that were clearly in the public domain under the various copyright acts in force in the US and Europe since 1800. The complaint of many authors about Google and its proposed "settlements" is that Google is taking their work that is still under copyright without their permission.

sPh

Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41629391)

All I want is to get full text search and access to scanned books, at a reasonable price. I would agree to pay, say, 10-20$/month to get access to anything I want to read. It's not as if I would read 10,000 pages. I just want not to be restricted to a few books and happily mix and match with the search engine in the whole collection.

Why can't they see that society is losing opportunities here - we are already in the 21st century. We all have smart phones, laptops and tablets. It costs next to nothing to do. I am willing to pay.

What would be better for them - to sell 2-3 books a year to me or to have a monthly subscription?

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