Readers Respond: The Copyright Chaos of Google Print

Readers respond to the eWEEK editorial, "The Copyright Chaos of Google Print."

If free access to printed material is available, why would someone feel it necessary to buy the original book (Editorial, "Copyright Chaos," Nov. 7)?

I think Googles [Google Print] effort will lower sales and hurt authors. Why would I buy a Tom Clancy book when I could read it on my computer? Would it be right to make copies of college textbooks and pass them out the first day of class to students for free rather than have them purchase the books? Is this different than what Google is doing?

Robert Moulder
Medco Construction

Your editorial "Copyright Chaos" completely misses the point of the Google Print lawsuit and does so in its very first sentence: Googles "... initiative to scan and digitize ..." (Nov. 7).

Whoa! This cant be done without copying the books onto some electronic medium. That violates the very essence of copyright law—that the copyright holder has absolute control (leaving aside "fair use" issues, which, in any case, dont permit quoting the whole work) over whether his or her material can be copied. The law is clear; there are no loopholes.

And if there is any doubt, its almost certain that all the books concerned have an explicit warning on their publication page against copying without permission.

Your argument that Googles process is the same as creating index cards might be tenable if the original document isnt to be retained in Googles files. This seems not to be so, as the Google Book Search page states, "Click a book title, and youll see the Snippet View which, like a card catalog, shows information about the book plus a few snippets—a few sentences of your search term in context."

Nor does it make it right to suggest that authors might benefit from having their works available in this fashion—they may or may not, but expediency does not constitute a valid reason to ignore the law. Google will make money on this, but the authors may not, unless they are offered a fee for every reference to one of their works.

Be that as it may, Google could have saved itself this trouble by getting the copyright holders permission for each of the books it wants to digitize—a big job, yes, but no bigger than the digitizing process itself. Having an opt-out process is meaningless if the authors involved dont know they are affected.

Editorializing about changing the law is one thing, but attempting to justify breaking it is something entirely different—something that no one should be a party to.

Peter Lacey
Winnipeg, Manitoba