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The Search Elephant in the Room

Comments in this weekend’s San Jose Mercury News by the head of Google’s book search program put an end to all the high falutin’ statements that the effort is about creating the next digital Library of Alexandria.

“Obviously, we think there is value in search,” Dan Clancy, the Google executive in charge of Book Search, said, “but I think to the extent that any (competitors) feel similarly, they can invest, similarly as we have, in digitalizing books.”

Nice idea Mr. Clancy, except of course, they can’t.  That is the exact issue raised by Google’s competitors.  Google chose to flout copyright law and illegally begin scanning the works of authors.  When caught, they used the legal system as a tool to bypass the legislative process and carve out an exclusive right for digitized books.  Hardly the type of “do no evil” activities we’d like to encourage from others.

In his February 18 testimony before Judge Chin, Andew DeVore an attorney representing folk singer Arlo Guthrie and “Pay it Forward” writer Catherine Ryan Hyde, explored the search issue:

Second, your Honor, this agreement unfairly strips authors of control over and compensation for nondisplay uses of their works.  This, I submit, your Honor, is the elephant in the living room with regard to this case and what the case is really about for Google.  Google admits that this vast database of books is of enormous value for search and its continued dominance in the search market.

Google engineer Dan Clancy has said, “Google’s core business is search and find, so obviously what helps improve Google’s search engine is good for Google.”  Yet this agreement would give Google unfettered, perpetual rights to exploit and profit from nondisplay uses of authors’ works.

Your Honor, we don’t even know what those uses are. They’re undisclosed, they’re unknown, they’re unexamined in discovery by any party, by the Court, or by any author that the settlement agreement would be imposed on around the world. … Yet this agreement would deprive authors of any meaningful right to control or receive any compensation for all such uses and force them to release any claim relating to those uses.

Not surprisingly, improving the bottom line was not a highlight of Sergey Brin’s NYT Op-Ed defending the settlement. And no one can really blame him for that.  Creating a library sounds a lot better than improving the delivery of targeted advertising.

The Department of Justice gets it though.  In their February 4 filing with Judge Chin, the government’s attorneys concluded that:

This outcome has not been achieved by a technological advance in search or by operation of normal market forces; rather, it is the direct product of scanning millions of books without the copyright holders’ consent.

We’re happy to see that the truth is catching on.

Originally posted on The Open Book Alliance Blog by admin.

Written by internetarchive

March 9, 2010 at 12:18 am

Posted in internet archive

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