Lawrence Lessig backs Google Print

I read recently on Google’s blog that Google is being sued by the Author’s Guild for “massive copyright infringement” because of Google’s Google Print project. Google Print aims to index book content from publishers and libraries so that they can be found in your Google search results.

Sound like copyright infringement? Well, Google justifies it by saying:

The use we make of all the books we scan through the Library Project is fully consistent with both the fair use doctrine under U.S. copyright law and the principles underlying copyright law itself, which allow everything from parodies to excerpts in book reviews.

Also, Google doesn’t show the whole book contents in the search results – it simply shows:

a brief snippet of text where their search term appears, along with basic bibliographic information and several links to online booksellers and libraries

Now Lawrence Lessig has weighed in behind Google’s argument. In a post on his blog today he said:

Google Print could be the most important contribution to the spread of knowledge since Jefferson dreamed of national libraries. It is an astonishing opportunity to revive our cultural past, and make it accessible. Sure, Google will profit from it. Good for them. But if the law requires Google (or anyone else) to ask permission before they make knowledge available like this, then Google Print can’t exist. Given the total mess of copyright records, there is absolutely no way to enable this sort of access to our past while asking permission of authors up front. Or at least, even if Google could afford that cost, no one else could.

Google’s use is fair use. It would be in any case, but the total disaster of a property system that the Copyright Office has produced reinforces the conclusion that Google’s use is fair use.

Hard to argue with that, isn’t it? I wonder if the Author’s Guild have really thought this through!

I see the BBC has picked up this story as well

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