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Court filings show Google's motivations behind book scanning

updated 11:59 pm EDT, Mon August 6, 2012

Documents from 2004 show primary goal of making money

In a court filing by writer's advocate group The Authors Guild, the motivation for Google's nearly decade-long scanning of books and documents was revealed to be contrary to its stated purpose. Rather than creating a massive "card catalog" of out-of-print books, the internal Google documents show that the primary goal of the scanning was making money.

An internal 2003 Google document described in the filing claims that searchers interested in book content should be directed to come to Google, not Amazon -- demonstrating that the scanning was never intended as "fair use" preservation. The "fair use" argument is the basis for Google's entire defense and public statements about the book-scanning project.

To execute the scanning, Google used hundreds of contractors in Boston, Ann Arbor, and Mountain View to run more than 300 machines. Libraries such as The New York Public Library, Harvard, Columbia, and Princeton only allowed Google to scan public domain works. Other libraries, including Wisconsin, University of Virginia, and Cornell, amongst others, showed no discrimination between public domain and copyrighted works. Google contractors made no specific judgement concerning the copyright status of any given book for scanning.

The Authors Guild has asked a US Federal District Court in New York to force Google to pay $750 per book it scanned for distribution, claiming that Google's effort does not constitute "fair use" under copyright law. Google told Reuters in an email that it believes Google Books "constitutes fair use by allowing users to identify interesting books and find ways to borrow or buy those books, much like a card catalog for the digital age." Google has argued for dismissal of the suit on "fair use" grounds.

A $125 million settlement was reached in March 2011 between Google and The Authors Guild, but was rejected on legal grounds by Judge Denny Chin, despite his saying publicly that he sees tangible benefits to libraries from both the scanning effort and technology developed to scan the books.

Judge Chin said the agreement overreached because it gave Google a "de facto monopoly" to copy books without permission from rights holders, and served to increase its market share in online searches. The United States Justice Department, Amazon.com, and Microsoft had all expressed antitrust concerns about the settlement.



Google Books Statement of Facts Aug 2012



By Electronista Staff
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  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Seriously, how did this make news? It's like saying O b a m a turns out to be an real alien (GMO). What, sour cream is white? no way!!

  1. Bobfozz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 07-28-08

    It makes news BECAUSE there are a lot of Google fans who, in spite of incontrovertible evidence, believe that Evil Google is not evil. As a book publisher myself I had to know from the beginning that Google was going to find some way of making money, passively, without doling anything worthwhile to the authors. Then they had the gall to ask the authors, in effect, to sue them individually--which they knew wouldn't happen.

    Librarians, contrary to popular opinion, half the time do not know what they are doing, and have even less experience in business. And besides "everyone uses Google so we are jsut paying them back."

    Google and Samsung belong in the same box. Greed at any price. Well let's hope it costs Google $10 billion even though the judges won't let it go that far because many of them, too, know nothing about business.

  1. Inkling

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 07-25-06

    Google's executives and lawyers probably saw their scanning move has having either a upside or a downside, depending on whether they could get their dubious fair use and even more dubious class action arguments accepted.



    • The upside was essentially owning the online display of millions of still-in-copyright books on the thin argument that the books were out of print. That meant lots of eyeballs and hence money for Google and Google alone, since no one else could do the same thing.

    • The downside, they thought, would be a minor slap on the wrist. Small amounts of money paid out to the very few authors who could afford to take them to court, hence their recent efforts to keep authors from joining their lawsuits into one huge Authors Guild lawsuit.


    Google also lied quite a bit. They intended to slip what they were doing past most authors by talking in vague terms in the first Google Books Settlement about "copyright interests" when what Google wanted to do was to set aside the U.S. copyright of every author on the planet. The tech press aided them by repeating those lies.

    Damages in the order of a billion dollars sound about right. It's enough to get Google's attention and those of any other corporation that's faced with a similar choice. This giant corporations need to know that their misdeeds can come at a serious cost. It's also a mere pittance in comparison to what Google would have gotten had things gone their way. The key issue at this point is to make sure that Google doesn't clutter the final settlement with so many requirements for qualification that it ends up paying little.

    I'll say again what I've repeated so often I feel like I'm in an echo chamber. We're experiencing these problems because the Berne Convention, which governs copyright in almost every country in the world, hasn't been revised since the late 1970s. It needs to be revised to take into account the new technologies and in a way that protects the interests of all involved.

    Imagine that it is the late 1930s. In the U.S. millions of cars are the roads and yet the nation's traffic laws are still those designed for an age of horse and buggies. That's the situation we're in. It is stupid beyond belief.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    Originally Posted by BobfozzView Post

    It makes news BECAUSE there are a lot of Google fans who, in spite of incontrovertible evidence, believe that Evil Google is not evil. As a book publisher myself I had to know from the beginning that Google was going to find some way of making money, passively, without doling anything worthwhile to the authors.



    Of course it isn't a surprise their point was to make money. Why is any company in business? Apple's point is to make money, too.

    And define "worthwhile to the authors"? Does making it easier to find a book, which in turn leads someone to buying it, not generate sales you wouldn't otherwise have?

    Oh, and there are just as many people who see Google as "Evil Google" for no reason just because they don't like them (just like there are people who will say everything Apple does is of the purest intentions, even if its obvious it isn't). Every company has its fans and detractors. Why should Google be any different (as, apparently, you should know, since you're in the detractor side of Google and Samsung, and obviously a fan of Apple, since I'm sure your hatred of the others is based on their supposed lack of deference to Apple).

  1. chas_m

    MacNN Staff

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Originally Posted by testudoView Post


    Of course it isn't a surprise their point was to make money. Why is any company in business? Apple's point is to make money, too.



    This is why you are so fundamentally misguided about Apple in a nutshell.

    Yes, they need to make money to continue to function, just as you need to keep breathing to continue to function.

    But is your PURPOSE IN LIFE simply to keep breathing for as long as possible? Or do you have some other purpose that may or may not directly contribute to your longevity or survival?

    (judging from your worthlessness here, I feel this is a good topic for debate, but anyway ...)

    What you don't seem to get it that it is possible -- not just for Apple, either -- for the company to exist for some OTHER purpose beyond "making money." Not a huge number of companies exist for much other than making money, but some do. Whatever Google started off doing, and however noble that original purpose was, it's gone now -- the company is just an ad agency and the name of the game is money above all else. IMO.

    Apple, on the other hand, seems to me to be genuinely interested in creating great products and (judging from remarks by several of the executive team) appear to believe that if the products are really good, the money will naturally follow. This isn't always true, Apple doesn't always hit the right note, but BROADLY speaking this maxim appears to hold water (and it's worth noting that it's hard to succeed without failing occasionally). So I think it's fair to say that the company itself believes this to be true based on their own experiences. It can't just be coincidence that Apple started having trouble when they were making their least distinguishable, most generic and by their standards worst products (the mid-90s) and that they got to where they they are today on the back of some really outstanding, game-changing products.

    You appear to be terribly naive about business if you think that the reason any company is in business is purely to make money. Ask any small business owner if they agree with you and I think you'll get an earful on that topic. Apple may be a huge corporation, but I don't think they've lost sight of their more pleasurable "higher purpose" any more than I think the Kino Video, for example, has lost sight of the fact that it's about getting great movies in front of the public (just a quick example of a company I think creates more for love than profit).

  1. smacker

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-24-03

    Funny... the first time I heard of googles motto "don't be evil" years ago I knew, they're gonna be evil sonner or later. Turned out to be sooner...

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Originally Posted by smackerView Post

    Funny... the first time I heard of googles motto "don't be evil" years ago I knew, they're gonna be evil sonner or later. Turned out to be sooner...

    All companies that say what they are about end up being the exact opposite. Got this one right... Any other company want to make a statement so I can make an assessment? I'm right here......

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