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Sunday, August 14, 2005
  big impact- Google move to organise all the word's information: the story

History repeating itself

Google the Internet powerhouse has an immodest stock price and an equally immodest goal: to organise the entire world’s information.

It has run into several hurdles along the way, however, as copyright holder objected to their works being duplicated in the Google database without payment or permission.
The latest to cry foul are book publishers, who are up in arms cover Google’s plan to make a digital copy of all the volume in three major university libraries.

The aim of the company’s effort, called Google Print for Libraries, is to let users search through the universe of printed text the way they do through pages on the World Wide Web. From the publishers’ perspective, however, Google is trying to make money from their works without paying for the rights.

If those complaints sound familiar, it’s because they are: the major record labels had a similar reaction in 1999 to the original Napster, which let users to download songs for free from one another’s computers. But Google in no Napster, and publishers should recognise the difference – and the opportunity.

According to Google, users who search for a word or phrase will receive links to custom-made web page, each of which offers three short excerpts from a book that contains the item being sought. The pages will also offer way to order the book or search for it in a library nearby.

If this in fact what Google does, it would be a boon not just for publishers but also readers. The project amounts to a 21st century card catalogue, helping people find relevant books online with kind o precision that Internet have come to expect.

To make this service a reality, though, Google is skating dangerously close to the line between fair use and piracy. It plans to make multiple copies of each book, storing them on computers scattered around the Internet to make searches run faster.
Google would not be acting in good faith if it gave than Fort Knox-level protection to the digitised texts. And even in ordinary use, its service could pose a problem for some types of reference material – just as free online dictionaries and encyclopaedias already threaten the value of their bound counterparts

To address these and other concerns, the company has told publishers it will delay until November its work on copyright texts and will not scan any items that the copyright owner does not want included
the Association of American Publishers was outraged by this offer, saying Google is trying to turn copyright law inside out. Google should have to ask permission to copy a book for its database, they say, it shouldn’t be up to publishers to object. Google argues that it is making a fair use of the books.

The dispute could easily wind up in the courts.

Meanwhile, Google should show more respect for publisher’s rights – and publishers should not make the mistake of using strictures of copyright law to tie their own hands.

Building a guide to the contents of books is hardly the same as making bootlegged copies of plagiarising. It’s monumental and costly task, and publishers have given up no reason to believe they can do it for themselves.

Unless their works are as well integrated with the Net as other forms of information and entertainment, they may be left waiting on the shelves for an audience that no longer bothers to walk through the stacks. - LAT-WP

-history repeating itself-

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