2024-04-18 14:17:46
Lessig on Google book scan books

Lawrence Lessig

Engadget reports that “the head honcho of Macmillan Publishers” lifted a couple Google laptops at a recent BookExpo America, and then when he returned them, retorted “hope you enjoyed a taste of your own medicine,” and “there wasn’t a sign by the computers informing him not to steal them.”

So this betrays an astonishing level of ignorance, even for a “head honcho.”

Remember (and I did a 30 minute preso here to explain it) Google Books proposed to scan 18,000,000 books. Of those, 16% were in the public domain, and 9% were in copyright, and in print. That means, 75% of the books Google would scan are out of print but presumptively under copyright.

The publishers and Google already have deals for the 9%. And being in the public domain, no one needs a deal for the 16%. So the only thing the publishers might be complaining about is the 75% which are out of print and presumptively under copyright.

With respect to these, Google intends to index the books, and make them searchable. If a hit comes through the search engine, Google offers snippets of the text relevant to the search. The page includes links to libraries where the book might be borrowed; it includes links to book stores where the book might be purchased. And, I take it, if the “publishers” were to choose to publish the book again, it would also include a link to that publisher.

Finally, any author who wants to be removed from this index can be removed. As with Google on the net, anyone can opt out.

So vis-a-viz a computer sitting at a demonstration booth at a conference, is the “head honcho’s” action like Google’s?

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