Publishers to Gain More than Lose from Google Print Search

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2005-05-27 Print this article Print

Opinion: Google's book-specific print search service will likely provide more benefits to publishers and authors in additional sales and public attention than losses from copyright violations.

Even a quick examination of Googles new book-specific print search service that the company released for beta test Thursday shows why university and nonprofit publishing houses are worried about wholesale copyright violations. The book search capability is a powerful tool that will allow anyone to perform keyword searches that will instantly retrieve references in hundreds and even thousands of books. It is certainly a powerful tool for any researcher looking for any conceivable published reference to a name, a literary phrase, an historical event or any other knowledge nugget.
However, it also appears at first glance that there is a huge opportunity to violate the copyrights of published authors and university scholars.
This is why an association representing 125 university nonprofit publishers has written a letter questioning Googles right to digitize and provide search access to millions of books through its print book search project. Google announced plans to digitize books in the collection of Oxford University, New York Public Library, Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of Michigan. The publishers are particularly concerned that Google will not only be digitizing books in the public domain, but also copyrighted books from the Harvard, Stanford and Michigan libraries. Its unclear whether any books from the library project are part of the search archive currently being tested. But the search results certainly seem comprehensive. A few quick searches showed that the print search feature is highly effective in pulling up hundreds of titles when searching for authors, historical figures or any surname. Click here to read the details about Googles plans to scan and archive the contents of five major research libraries. And it is a fair question whether just the ability to pull up these references violates the authors copyrights if they havent specifically granted Google explicit permission to present them. But in the end the potential benefits to authors and scholars will outweigh the concerns about copyright violations if Google is vigilant about ensuring that its search capability does not give users the ability to abuse and misappropriate copyrighted material. While users can read the references and excerpts, they cannot print the scanned pages retrieved by the Google search engine. Nor can they copy and paste the material into another document. This is no different from turning off the print and copy features of documents published in Adobe Acrobat files. The search engine only presents about three pages containing the search key words. So it is not as though users can read an entire book or scholarly paper on a Google Web page. While Google certainly needs to answer the obvious concerns of authors about whether they can expect their copyrights to be scrupulously protected, it appears that in the long run publishers and authors are more likely to benefit from the additional sales that can be generated from the promotional and advertising potential of this search capability. Next Page: Searching for a new revenue stream.

John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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