Comments: Google Print Is Not Copyright's Enemy-Of-My-Enemy-Is-My-Friend

Good analysis--but then, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is almost always a short-sighted stance.

Posted by walt at September 23, 2005 03:49 PM

In this particular case, as you say, Google isn't doing necessarily something altruistic, but this doesn't mean (because they are acting in a self interested way) that it won't have good effects. Note I'm not a Market worshipper so I'm making a specific, not general, argument here. Whether Google is doing this because it's cool and will help us find books or because it wants the dough from the advertisers is in this particular case irrelevant, as the results come to be approximately the same for all agents, except Google which gets more dough and the advertisers which get more exposure. Nothing too relevant from a public policy perspective.

On the other hand, I understand very well the argument of those who think that Copyright is not a worthwhile bargain anymore and the public is giving too much away to the authors, and want it redefined. For these people, among who I will tentatively include myself, any institution or programme which somehow gives the public a service based on original works, when opposed by rights-holders, seems like a good idea. Whether it is fair use or not is secondary, what we should be asking is if rights-holders ought to have the ability to interfere with it.

Posted by David at September 24, 2005 03:00 AM

I'm not sure I follow you, and I definitely don't follow Siva. Fair use is just trivia??? I really respect Siva's work, but that line really sounds like a parody of an ivory-tower academic.

Before I drop the "enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend" thinking in this case, I'd need to see some concrete, and plausible, scenarios spelled out where a Google loss in this case would lead to changes for the better in copyright law. or to any sort of advancement in open access to information.

Posted by Doug Lay at September 24, 2005 09:41 AM

David: Inherent in copyright is that some good, cool, ideas for services, are prohibited. I'm trying to convey that we can say this situation is wrong (and am in that camp myself) - but we have to understand the policy problem in the first place.

Doug: Think of it this way:

Fair use is not trivia, as a general statement.

However, in this situation, the focus is too much on a trivial statement of fair use.

"Are tiny snippets fair use?" - trivia

"Can Google make complete copies of commercial books without permission, as long as it *says* it will only show snippets" - not trivia

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at September 24, 2005 12:11 PM


Right, I can't properly assess if this is fair use or not, among other things because fair use is very badly defined (whether on purpose or not I won't get into). I've been commenting on Karl-Friedrich Lenz' blog on this also, who thinks this is clearly illegal, and I put forward the following analogy:
Say I'm a literary critic and I specialize in the study of a given author. In my critical works, I quote sparingly and clearly fair-use-way from the works of this author. But I write a lot of papers, during 40 years of productive (?) :-) work as a critic, and if you strung the quotes together you would reach a very substantial amount of one of the author's works, an amount sufficient to be considered a clear case of infringement. Should I be considered to have infringed?

Posted by David at September 24, 2005 03:06 PM

Regarding snippets, not all books are lengthy works which need to be read in their entirety to make sense. I remember similar objections to Amazon's Search Within feature.

Search Google Print for a couple ingredients, and you can find recipes from hundreds of cookbooks. That doesn't require more than a page or two from the work to make use of it...

Posted by Lis Riba at September 25, 2005 06:23 PM