“Google & the Library” contributed to Google Debate site hosted by EPS in London in those early dates, before the Google Book Settlement
By Karen Christensen, Berkshire Publishing Group
Our problem is that the people at Google donâ€™t really get books.
They want to believe that books are just primitive webpages, nothing but more information to be organized for the benefit of everyone.
Google Print recently wrote to publishers saying, â€œIt’s also important to bear in mind that, just like web search, any copyright holder can ask to have their books excluded from the Library Project by following these instructions: . . . .â€
But websites are built for the web. Books were not written for Google Library. Forcing publishers and authors to opt-out, instead of opt-in, is not fair. Itâ€™s coercive.
Not to mention a processing nightmare. With the opt-in program Google Print, in which publishers provide the books (and permissions), Google has had many delays. They even sent a Google Gumby clock as an apology to participating publishers. I can only imagine the mess that Google Library could turn into, and the errors that will result.
Librarians, unfortunately, donâ€™t understand the rights of the creators and producers of books. Most librarians do not understand the work and expense, the expertise and talent, involved in creating the publications they buy. And quite a few believe that information should be freeâ€”unless it is only available through them.
Besides that, Google has an unhealthy fascination for librarians: they are (rightly) terrified by the fact that students go to Google instead of to them, but they canâ€™t take their eyes off it. Google is taking advantage of librarians by making them partners in a process that undermines the sources of information and knowledge that their institutions and communities depend on.
As a result, authors and publishers can easily be made to look obstructive and mean-spirited. Our task now is to explain that while weâ€™re increasingly receptive to online marketing and publishing opportunities, our books are original creative work and we think that any money they earn, or enable others to earn, should be shared with us. And we certainly donâ€™t think anyone should do anything with our workâ€”in any formatâ€”without our permission. (Most e-rights book contracts give the author the right to check the digital version for errors. What protection do we have with Google? )
But weâ€™re going to struggle to get the public, people outside the creative professions and academia, to understand this. Most people think that being a published author should be its own reward. And Google looks so friendly, so open-hearted, so democratic. Itâ€™s a good thing the Google lawsuit isnâ€™t going to be decided by a public referendum, because we authors would lose hands down.
Iâ€™ve taken to asking people whether, if it were possible, they would be happy if they knew Google was going to scan, store, and index copies of all their personal photographs and diaries, photos of the interior of their house and their closets, all without permission? (And use that content to make money.)
Our challenge is to show people just what it takes to create and publish a book and that intellectual creation merits every bit as much protection as physical property. And we need to talk about this is simple terms. When Google says it will take and hold and use content that does not belong to them, without asking permission, they are coming awfully close to breaking their own rule, â€œDonâ€™t be evil.â€
Â© Karen Christensen 2005