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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Google This: Book Thieves Earn Supreme Court Support



Did authors just suffer a "colossal loss," the term used by Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson, when it comes to the Supreme Court denying a chance to hear a challenge to the U.S. Court of Appeals decision to allow Google Books to exist (without compensation for – or permission by --millions of authors)?  

Or, did the United States government show its support for what Google says is a product that “acts like a card catalog for the digital age by giving people a new way to find and buy books while at the same time advancing the interests of authors”?

It would seem that what Google did was a brazen violation of the copyright law.  What will stop others from doing the same thing with other content – music, plays, songs, art?

Google and the Authors Guild actually worked out a financial settlement in 2011 – seven years after Google had begun to scan millions of books from libraries.  But the agreement was thrown out by a district court judge.  How ridiculous!

Users of Google Books can search for quotes or key words and they will see a display of paragraphs or pages of text for the results.  How does a corporation simply violate the rights of millions of people?  Authors should be livid that Google can just co-opt their creative works.  A savvy researcher never has to buy another book in her life.

We live in a new society, where rights go violated, information doesn’t stay private, and people’s histories stay with them forever.  The digital world holds a lot of promise, but it brings with it pirates of content, identity theft, and hackers.  In this case the thievery was done right in the open by one of the most revered companies in American history.

Google Books offers visitors to its site to “search the world’s most comprehensive index of full-text books.” It also provides free books and sells books.

The site says: “If the book is out of copyright, or the publisher has given us permission, you’ll be able to see a preview of the book, and in some cases, the entire text.  If it’s in the public domain, you’re free to download a PDF copy.

“If you find a book you like, click on the “Buy this book” and “Borrow this book” links to see where you can buy or borrow the print book.  You can now also buy the ebook from the Google Play Store.”

So not only does Google Books make a lot of for-sale content available at no charge, it will compete with book-sellers to sell books, and in certain cases, undermine publishers who sell public domain books. No wonder why authors despise this intrusion.

It also allows you to write a review of a book.  It has created reference pages so users can “quickly find all kinds of relevant information:  book reviews, web references, maps and more.”

What hasn’t gotten as much attention is how Google took a zillion magazines and scanned their content.  Go to Google Books, search magazines for a term like “erotica” and you’ll turn up full articles from New York Magazine, Jet, Out, Ebony, Billboard, Mother Jones, Spin, and many more – spanning decades.  It just doesn’t seem right.

The writer of 2016 must constantly confront a changing landscape – with the media, in the marketplace, and with technological advances such as Google Books.  Every time violations of free speech, copyright infringement, or corporate monopolies threaten the careers of writers. I shed a tear.  We must all support, respect and uphold the value of the written word.  While Google Books may feel it is doing a service to society, one in which it can profit from, I believe it injures the book industry, publisher, and writer.

If Google wants to include this blog in searches, just tag it as Google Books:  Thieves.


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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

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