24 March 2011

Copyright Infringement and Google

by Carrie Bailey

I want to be Google right now, who wouldn't? Google has scanned and digitized millions of books to be made available from their ebook platform. That's clearly copyright infringement, but having agreed to pay royalties to the authors and owners of the work, Google has attempted to....well, be fair to writers who created the work. The problem? Many of the authors and owners cannot be established. 

Is it better for a major corporation to be permitted to make these works available despite the fact that they will pay nothing to use the product of writer's labor OR should these unidentified works be made available in the interest of their potential benefit to society as a whole?

As a librarian, my opinion on the matter is fairly biased. I do believe that these works should be made available for the public good. Many works are outside of copyright law and free for public use and republication. A work without a determined author should not be excluded from public use on that basis, but this is the crux of the matter. Google is a corporation and not a public entity.

Every time I hear news on this nine year discussion... I wonder if Google realizes that libraries exist. So today when I heard that the US courts denied Google's plans to proceed with making these 15 million works available, I sighed in relief. And yet, I can't help wondering why public libraries have been largely left out of the discussion.

What do you think? Should unidentified work be made available for the public good? Who should be responsible for the task? 

For more information read:

Google books agreement torpedoed by US courts from BBC News

Carrie Bailey is a co-editor of Peevish Penman.


  1. This is not really a constructive comment at all, but I'm just wondering why there are so many books without identified authors? Does that mean they can't find the author to request rights to the document, or that these are anonymous books?

  2. No, it's a good question. From what I understand it's both a combination of Google putting more time and effort into finding works to scan than authors attached to the work and work being provided online and circulated via piracy without concern for copyright infringement to begin with... but there could be more to it.

  3. Jason Dromes5/10/2012 1:42 AM

    Did your book get on Google? I know its on amazon but I hope it did it was a good book