Do you think copyright laws will change in the future? Let’s take a look at Google books. Google began its book-scanning project in 2004, without obtaining permission from copyright holders. The next year, groups representing authors and publishers sued Google claiming copyright violations, beginning an eight-year court battle. In the meantime, Google has continued to scan more than 20 million books, the majority of which are out of print without compensating copyright holders. They are searchable on the Google Books website, which returns snippets but not entire texts. Some full books are for sale on Google Play through partnerships with publishers. Google also has certain agreements to give libraries and publishers digital copies of their books that it scans.
Although the Judges have ruled in favor of fair use and that Google did not infringe copyright laws [The Authors Guild, Inc. v Google Inc. 2013 WL 6017130 (S.D.N.Y. Nov.14, 2013)], the case has now been appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals by The Authors Guild.
What do you think are the merits and demerits of this case (i.e. is the decision fair or not for the authors)? If Google’s fair use is upheld what do you think could be the repercussions in the future of digital copyright laws?
With technology on our fingertips, more and more people rely in getting information through search engines, most popularly – Google. In a Filipino context, “igoogle mo yan” is now a slang phrase meaning to “search for it (using Google)”.
Less and less people are visiting libraries, technology may not be only the only one to blame, but funding that goes to these institutions. Especially in developing countries like the Philippines, all the books and resources in our libraries combined wouldn’t still be on par with the catalog of a major overseas library will be able to provide.
By digitizing books, Google made access to books easier, helping out students, teachers and researchers specially the ones who cannot physically visit libraries like the ones located overseas. Out of print books are also easily made available, which defeats the limitations of physical copies of books. Having digital copies of books also provides a relatively cheaper means in buying a copy than their printed counterparts. Backups of these books are also in the cloud, wherein any catastrophes that may happen on the physical libraries, all the information are safe. Google also gave digital copies of the scanned books to the libraries and publishers.
Advantages in digitizing of books are clearly too many, that the only demerit to point out is Google didn’t ask permission from its authors and publishers first. The copyrighted books in their databases were also not available fully for public viewing, rather it only shows snippets on its pages.
Companies spend millions of dollars collectively in Search Engine Optimization, just to have their products and services known. Google gives these services to authors and publishers for free. Books being searchable can be a win-win situation for the authors and publishers. It can serve as a good advertisement and may prompt the reader to buy the full copy of the book. Having significant amount of teaser text from the book snippet, sets expectations of the reader on the content and can even be the reason of buying the full book. Authors and publishers partnering up with Google is clearly beneficial in terms of their books being known and end up having sales.
As our society moves forward to having all our data and information digitized and stored in the cloud, our lawmakers should be able to foresee the inevitable change this has to do with the existing copyright laws. The laws should change in favor to the less privileged, like the students with little access to information, and at the same time protects the intellectual works of authors. Digital copyright laws should in no way subvert the rights of the authors and publishers to be paid what is due to them. If the court’s decision benefits all parties – Google, authors/publishers, and the public consumers – then I believe that our legislators and courts are on the right track.