March 30, 2011

"Six Reasons Google Books Failed."

Robert Darnton digests Judge Denny Chin’s opinion rejecting the settlement of the copyright claim against Google:
First, Google abandoned its original plan to digitize books in order to provide online searching.... Instead, Google chose to make its opponents its partners...

[Second]... a dubious opt-out clause....

Third, in setting terms for the digitization of orphan books—copyrighted works whose rights holders are not known—the settlement eliminated the possibility of competition.....

Fourth, rights held by authors and publishers located outside the United States...

Fifth, the settlement was an attempt to resolve a class action suit, but the plaintiffs did not adequately represent the class to which they belonged....

Sixth, in the course of administering its sales, both of individual books and of access to its data base by means of institutional subscriptions, Google might abuse readers’ privacy by accumulating information about their behavior....

13 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Wow! At last someone stood up to Google's claims to do whatever it pleases.

steve said...

All I know is that there are many "orphan" books that will never be made available in digital form by publishers, that I would happly buy for a small fee (and "small" is the importnat word here). Do authors or publishers or deceased authors decendants etc. really want all these "orphan" books to die?

The idea of a national digital library seems flawed to me. Why should taxpayers pay for what yould undoubtedly be a moneypit when Google is willing to do it.

Meanwhile... I can find some books in torraents that I would happliy pay for.

David said...

Nothing like the law to try to stomp out great ideas. Google Books is an incredible resource. For the last year I've been researching slavery in the Georgia and South Carolina Low Country immediately before and during the Civil War. I live in a small town with meagre library resources. Google Books has allowed me to access, in digital form, all the out of copyright books from the 19th and early 20th century that pertain to the subject. An incredible resource, and without fees.

Google Books also helps me find the still copyrighted works which are relevant, and gives me samples so I can gauge my interest. I can buy many of these books at modest cost on Alibris and similar used book services.

Contrast this with JSTOR, the academic digital library of scholarly periodicals. Since I am not affiliated with an academic institution, I am asked to pay $25 and up for each simple monograph that might be relevant.

Who is most interested in dissemination of knowledge? The academic establishment or Google Books?

David said...

Did I say "incredible resource" often enough? Well, it is.

bagoh20 said...

Often when looking for something very specific and obscure, Google's digitzed books is the only thing that finds what I'm looking for. I've found stuff there in books that were written a hundred years ago and probably sold 200 copies. It's cool.

David said...

Yeah, Bags, but if the gatekeepers of access to information have their way, it will be cool only up to 1923.

The notion in the article that the government should do this is horrid. Do we really want the government to be the central repository of books as the centuries unfold?

My guess is that in 10-20 years nearly every new book will be available in digital format, and that will result in much broader access. Then we will have the strange result of broad digital access to books pre-1923 and after 2023, but not in between. We will call that time the Dark Ages.

J said...

Google books does provide some useful information but it's via a corporate behemoth with all sorts of qualifications added. Any real American should applaud as Google crashes and burns.

Got to hand it to the russian mafia, "Sergey Brin", Page and their cronies at Steinford U, though: Googleoffski may count as one of greatest white collar criminal hacks ever (and they manage to avoid paying taxes as well).

David said...

"Any real American should applaud as Google crashes and burns."

Be a real American and hate success!!

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

"To those who don't know the world's on fire, I have nothing to say." (Bertold Brecht).

That'll do for now, Davey.

Richard Dolan said...

Two posts about class actions in one day. A record of sorts chez Althouse.

Both cases show how litigants try to use the class action device in ways that distort basic legal rules. The Google settlement tried to use the court's power to enter a judgment binding on absent players to foreclose future litigation and grant Google unique legal protections. The conflicts of interest are overwhelming, and not just the one between Guild members and other authors. The primary conflict stems from the plaintiff class lawyer's dual interests: no payment absent a settlement (or a win at trial).

The Wal-Mart class action wants to do away entirely with actual discrimination, and focus instead on statistical disparities. That's a clever way of solving the problem of showing that common questions of law and fact predominate -- just wish them all away with a statistical flourish, while pointing to a general "policy" of individual managerial discretion.

Litigation of that sort is a poor substitute for legislation, especially when the real objective is social reform of some sort. The federal courts are increasingly hostile to that approach to class actions, as the Google decision shows (and probably the SCOTUS decision will too when it comes out).

Bryan C said...

" Do authors or publishers or deceased authors decendants etc. really want all these "orphan" books to die?"

Yes, they'd rather see the books die than admit that our copyright laws are badly broken. The Library of Alexandria is being allowed to burn because everyone is afraid of being sued if they touch the books without permission.

Which is why copyright should be as originally intended. Strictly limited to a set period of time, with no extensions, rather than being essentially infinite as is currently the case. After that point, If the creator of the work wants the profits from his work to benefit his heirs then it's up to him to make appropriate investments or private contractual arrangements.

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