Thursday, September 22, 2005

Official Google Blog: Google Print and the Authors Guild

Google's response to the suit by the Author's Guild. It's pretty clear in this article that Google does not plan to display even a full page of the book discovered by means of a search of the index.
Official Google Blog: Google Print and the Authors Guild: "Let's be clear: Google doesn't show even a single page to users who find copyrighted books through this program (unless the copyright holder gives us permission to show more). At most we show only a brief snippet of text where their search term appears, along with basic bibliographic information and several links to online booksellers and libraries."
I've been thinking more about this situation. As posed by Google, the question is less about delivery of copyright-protected content published in print, than it is about whether it is possible to create an index based upon the work of another? Imagine, for example, that Google had discovered a way harness the power of the insect world to develop such a full-text index. An army of roaches might be turned loose on a library of books, consuming the paper, but also the content. These roaches then might be harnessed in such a way as to respond to queries coming from us human users of the Internet search engine, providing results to each query that placed the word(s) being searched in brief context as Google is doing with it's digitization project. Would the creation of such an index made available to the public be a violation of copyright?

The ATLA Religion Database indexes (not full-text) journals and multi-authored books for which it does not hold copyright. ATLA acquires a copy of each journal or book (or in some cases indexers have been sent to libraries) and professional indexers read and index each article/chapter. This index is sold commercially. Is the creation and sale of that index a violation of copyright?

The very premise of an Internet search engine like Yahoo or Google is that it indexes content from the Web. Copyright law still applies to content posted on Web sites. Whether registered with the Copyright Office or not, the rights of the author of a work are protected by copyright. Publishing that work on the Web does not in and of itself place that work in the public domain. The very premise of Internet search engines is to provide full-text indexing to Web content, much of which enjoys copyright protection. Is full-text indexing of content originally published in print different from full-text indexing of content originally published electronically?

[Addendum]

I just read Jonathan Band's article The Google Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis. It is a well-reasoned analysis of Google's claim to be functioning within established Fair Use guidlines. Especially helpful is his comparison to the case: Kelly v. Arriba Soft, 336 F.3d 811 (9th Cir. 2003). Based on his analysis and the comparison, it's hard to imagine Google will lose this case or the one being brought by the Author's Guild.