Monday, October 24, 2005Google CEO on Google Print
Eric Schmidt writes on the Official Google Blog on 'the point of Google Print'.
His argument is that Google Print (GP) will "make it easier for people to find books", and that the beneficaries will be publishers and authors, as well as readers. Schmidt provides a reasonable counter-argument to the claims that duplicating the entire contents of books can not be considered fair use - "if that were so, you wouldn't be able to record a TV show to watch it later or use a search engine that indexes billions of Web pages".
I'm gradually becoming convinced by this view. Initially, I had thought that GP couldn't possibly be fair use. But if it isn't, then neither is Google's indexing of the web. One could argue, however, that there is a difference between crawling a website and actively scanning a book and placing its contents online. The website is already online, and presumeably the author wants it to be discoverable online. The book is not online, and possibly the author/publisher does not want it to be discoverable online. The website owner can prevent search engines from indexing it by inserting one simple line of code; the publisher must write to Google and ask for the book to be excluded.
I guess it comes down to whether a judge considers there to be a fundamental distinction between the analogue print and the digital worlds.
Personally, I think publishers are being short-sighted by objecting to GP - but nonetheless, short-sightedness is their right.
John Battelle points out that there are other issues: "who is making the money? Second, who owns the rights to leverage this new innovation - the public, the publisher, or ... Google? Will Google make the books it scans available for all comers to crawl and index? Certainly the answer seems to be no.". The comments on John's post, including some from publishers, and others which address the website vs book issue I mentioned above, are fascinating.