Weird Priorities: Europeans Want To Digitize Books As Quickly As Possible... Just As Long As It's Not Google Doing It

from the yeah-that-makes-sense dept

Sometimes you just shake your head and wonder what people are thinking. Just as German Chancellor Angela Merkel came out against the Google Book settlement, European Commission Information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding declared that Europe needs to speed up digitizing books. Except if Google is doing it. Why? Well, as Copycense points out, it seems that some Europeans are trotting out the moral rights issue. Moral rights on copyright are not accepted under US copyright law, but are standard in Europe. But, again, this seems to show the problems of bringing morality into copyright law. Europe wants to get books digitized. The fastest way to do that is to let Google keep doing what it's doing (and feel free to do separate digitization projects as well -- but Google has a nice headstart). So, how is it "moral" to keep more books offline and unsearchable? According to German academic Roland Reuss in that Publishers Weekly story above about moral rights, "academics have gotten by just fine for the past 500 years under the old system of publishing." Yes, and people were fine having to walk everywhere or ride horses before cars came along too. Who knew progress was immoral? Ned Ludd is alive and well apparently.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    harknell (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    Job Security

    In many cases these issues are really about job security, or the desire to keep things the same forever. Academics and librarians (many of the people pushing to keep Google from doing the digitizing) want to remain as the gatekeepers to books and published journals. They are the "experts" and their jobs (they believe) depend on them being the resource to pointing people to where to go to find data. If Google usurps this by making everything searchable these people incorrectly believe that everyone will abandon them and simply use the internet. Much like how you discuss how businesses want to simply keep their old business models forever without innovation, it's the same thing here. They got a degree 25 years ago and want to rely on that idea for their entire career and not re-access or learn and adapt new things.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Steve (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 7:43am

    Some European legal ideologies are just wacky. Not that the US has it all figured out but there have been a lot of head scratchers lately. EU lawsuits against Microsoft to remove bundled apps, the Pirate Bay trial, now Google books... it's a bit laughable.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Call me Al, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 7:45am

    Re: Job Security

    Except that they are still digitising the books in Europe, just not allowing Google to do so. I fail to see how it is any different and it would presumably be every bit as detrimental to the employment prospects of librarians and academics; that is to say not at all detrimental.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Free Capitalist (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 7:45am

    He who controls the spice controls the universe.

    Nah just kidding, in this case spice is (should be) infinitely replicable regardless of who scanned it first... they're just being ignorant.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    icon
    Free Capitalist (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:05am

    Re: Re: Job Security

    that is to say not at all detrimental.


    Agreed. Frankly the average person probably needs *more help navigating the modern Dewey Decimal System: search results. Finding information is easy... finding relevant information is also easy to me, but apparently not so to many.

    The public still needs the help and the organization in their community they can go to if they need an information guide.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    icon
    LostSailor (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Re: Job Security

    Academics and librarians (many of the people pushing to keep Google from doing the digitizing) want to remain as the gatekeepers to books and published journals.

    Actually, quite the opposite. Librarians and libraries are the ones that are enabling Google's digitization project.

    Where do you think Google got all the books that they are digitizing? From libraries, including Harvard, U of Michigan, and, I believe, Stanford. As part of the deal, those libraries get a copy of each scanned book. The libraries are trying to expand access, not limit it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    LostSailor (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 8:47am

    Moral Rights

    So, how is it "moral" to keep more books offline and unsearchable?

    The concept of moral rights under the Berne Convention is a bit different than an overall concept of bringing "morality" into copyright.

    Technically, a content creator's moral rights are fairly specific and separate from copyright. A copyright can be transferred or abandoned, but the moral rights remain with the creator.

    The Berne Convention's moral rights clause is fairly brief:

    Independent of the author's economic rights, and even after the transfer of the said rights, the author shall have the right to claim authorship of the work and to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of, or other derogatory action in relation to the said work, which would be prejudicial to the author's honor or reputation.


    Some of the moral rights are common sense, such as the right of attribution. Some are more problematic, such as the right to integrity in the work (requiring permission for alterations of the original, such as the colorization of black-and-white films).

    With regard to Google's digitization, "moral rights" in the specific don't really come into play, no matter what an individual European academic might assert.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:02am

    Of course...

    Of course the Eurotrash want to digitize books. Its the right thing to do. They just don't want America to one-up them AGAIN! Its though when you live in a second class part of the world.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    Adam (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:24am

    Re: Job Security

    Not just jobs; control. There was a time when only priests were meant to read the bible so the hoi polloi would get their religion from priests only.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:41am

    "academics have gotten by just fine for the past 500 years under the old system of publishing."

    This is just more evidence that intellectual property maximists can't stand the word innovation. They want to stop innovation at every turn possible.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:46am

    Re: Job Security

    "If Google usurps this by making everything searchable these people incorrectly believe that everyone will abandon them and simply use the internet"

    While these people may believe such a thing, their belief is not true. Yes, some of the more primitive things they used to help people do will become obsolete as technology makes them easier for everyone to do but librarians and such will have to learn new skills that others don't readily possess to help people do even more sophisticated and specialized searches and data miming and such.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:50am

    Re: Re: Job Security

    For instance, there is an array of specialized search engines that focus on specialized things, google is simply a VERY good generalized search engine, but if someone wants to search for something very very specific within a very specific field or arena it's more difficult to do. These librarians can learn all the search engines and what their advantages and disadvantages are depending on every individuals specific search needs and they can use this skill to further help people find more relevant specialized knowledge.

    Also, another good thing that could help is learning different languages as well. Some study maybe in some different language and someone familiar with more languages may help someone else better interpret it? But I still think we have quite a ways to go before we can master search translations.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Whatever, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:58am

    Re: Of course...

    Maybe they don't want a big Corporation to be in charge of the project and own everything, we all know how corporations all have our best interests in mind. Second class part of the world where they don't let you die just because you don't have the tens of thousands of $$$ to pay for treatment.
    It's because of simpletons like you that the US have such a poor image outside its borders...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Job Security

    Another thing to note is that database designers still get paid quite a lot of money, so there still seems to be a great need for well designed databases to alleviate the shortcomings of existing databases/search engines, etc...

    Google simply doesn't have the solution to everything and those who can adequately direct people (and especially businesses or scientists with PH.d's who are looking for very specialized information in their research. Then again, they probably already know where to look better than some librarian? Hard to say) towards more specialized relevant information can be very useful for society.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    PrometheeFeu (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Honestly Mike I'm disappointed in your lack of research here. "Moral rights" are not about morality. It is simply the name given to non-economic intellectual property rights. Most importantly in my opinion, moral rights include the right to have your work not be plagiarized. Think about all the business models you have talked about Mike. Would any of them worked if people can just come along and claim your creation as their own? All of them depend on connecting with fans and at some point establishing a relationship between you, your creation and your fans. This is the kind of thing that moral rights protect. They recognize that content creators are more closely connected to the content they create than other products.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re: Of course...

    "Maybe they don't want a big Corporation to be in charge of the project and own everything, we all know how corporations all have our best interests in mind."

    If google scans the books that doesn't mean they own their intellectual property. They aren't preventing anyone else from scanning the books and offering them on a search engine on their own. But you already knew that, you just chose to once again expose your dishonesty and unjustified hatred for Google.

    "It's because of simpletons like you that the US have such a poor image outside its borders..."

    So when a corporation like Google tries to do something good for the world you get mad. But I'm sure you couldn't be more excited when big corporations use intellectual property to hinder innovation ( http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20091019/1848596602.shtml ). Perhaps the reason the U.S. has a bad reputation is because legislators and people like you don't like and hence go after good corporations and entities and people who try to do good for the world, like Google, for no good reason and then they support bad corporations and entities and people who use intellectual property to hinder innovation and who harm society. Hence corruption abounds.

    Simply being a corporation and making money doesn't mean Google did anything wrong. It's HOW a corporation or person makes its money and its actions that determines whether or not society should oppose that corporation. Google, for the most part, has been very careful not to act unethically. Yet, out of all the corporations to talk bad about you choose to target Google, one of the few corporations that actually seems to care about morality. Yet I'm sure you are fine with those corporations and entities, like the RIAA/MPAA, Monsanto, and big Pharma, that have no regard for morality whatsoever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    Tor (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:51am

    Re: Moral Rights

    Good point. In fact the Swedish Pirate Party has been very clear about that they do not want to touch the moral rights but only reform copyright (but this may depend somewhat on how one interprets moral rights).

    "Some are more problematic, such as the right to integrity in the work (requiring permission for alterations of the original, such as the colorization of black-and-white films)."

    I think the problematic part is that the author's "honor or reputation" is taken in a much more subjective way than need to be the case. We don't have a right not to have our feelings hurt. You may have a right not to be subjected to libel, but then a court also needs to agree that it's libel. In any case there needs to be some objective way of determining if alterations hurt the author's honor or reputation. Feelings alone is not enough in my view.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Whatever, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Of course...

    Wow, I think you're overreacting and extrapolating quite a bit from just a couple sentences.

    "But you already knew that, you just chose to once again expose your dishonesty and unjustified hatred for Google."

    Where's the dishonesty? I am merely suggesting a possible explanation as to why the EU is doing what it's doing. It's not so much a matter of intellectual property but more a matter of copyright issue. Again it's just an idea in response to a quite ignorant comment (Eurotrash, one-up the US, second class part of the world). As far as hatred... Well I don't even know where to start, where do you see hate, questioning someone's intentions is hatred, really? I use Google extensively, they have great tools, someone is finally giving Microsoft something to worry about which is good for everyone. I even have Google stock for *****'s sake. I just keep an open mind, you should give that a shot.

    "Yet, out of all the corporations to talk bad about you choose to target Google, one of the few corporations that actually seems to care about morality. Yet I'm sure you are fine with those corporations and entities, like the RIAA/MPAA, Monsanto, and big Pharma, that have no regard for morality whatsoever."

    Well it is a news topic about Google and the EU, so it's not targeting, it's commenting on the subject. Do you work for Google or are you just paranoid?
    I always keep a critical eye concerning all corporations I think it's simply healthy not to follow blindly one way or another. I completely agree with you on the companies you are citing RIAA/MPAA are just tools to keep big money in the already filthy rich's hands, same for big Pharma and Co that sadly don't seem to care much about curing people, unless they got the big bucks to shell out for it of course.

    All in all I think you should read again the comment I was replying to in order to understand what I meant when I was talking about the United States' poor image abroad.

    We're basically on the same page, except that I made an assumption as to why the EU is trying to prevent Google from digitizing european authored materials. Not even pretending to know why, I don;t work for the EU.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 3:18pm

    Re: Re: Moral Rights

    Yup, moral rights are based on natural rights, primarily the natural right to truth.

    Authorship is a matter of fact, not a privilege to be sold. However, being given credit is not a right. Authors have a natural right against misattribution, but that doesn't mean they can demand their names in lights any time their work is used.

    Similarly with reputation. The right is against falsehood, not to deny others the liberty to express their negative opinions.

    Again with integrity. The right is against an edited work misrepresented as original or authorised. It is not the right to veto any modification of one's work.

    The problem with much moral rights legislation is that it has become contaminated by copyright inspired overreach. However, at least moral rights have a natural, ethically sound foundation. Copyright on the other hand is pure, unadulterated commercial privilege, unnatural and unethical.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 5:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Of course...

    "Maybe they don't want a big Corporation to ... own everything"

    That's dishonesty. Google scanning books does not make them own everything, or anything, for that matter. You're being dishonest because you know better.

    "Maybe they don't want a big Corporation to be in charge of the project and own everything"

    It was google that STARTED the project, they are the ones that innovated. Now the Europeans want to steal Googles idea and they want to restrict Google from implementing and profiting off of their own innovation. Uhm... isn't the idea behind intellectual property laws to allow people to profit from their innovations. But not only are the Europeans in this case "infringing" on Google's idea, they're stealing it by trying to prevent Google from implementing their own invention. How is that Good for innovation? How does that encourage anyone to innovate? The Europeans et al had plenty of time to digitize books before Google but they chose not to, they chose to wait for someone else to do it and then they chose to not only infringe on the idea, but to literally steal the idea (restricting Google from implementing its own idea) only because they hate Google.

    "It's not so much a matter of intellectual property but more a matter of copyright issue."

    Copyright is intellectual property.

    "Again it's just an idea in response to a quite ignorant comment"

    You're the one that's so ignorant you don't even know that copyright IS intellectual property. Who should I believe, your blatant ignorance or those you comment against?

    "Well I don't even know where to start, where do you see hate, questioning someone's intentions is hatred, really? I use Google extensively, they have great tools, someone is finally giving Microsoft something to worry about which is good for everyone. I even have Google stock for *****'s sake. I just keep an open mind, you should give that a shot."

    Google intends to scan books that it can legally scan with the authorization of the copyright holders. What's wrong with that?

    "Do you work for Google or are you just paranoid?"

    I do not work for Google but, I admit, I am paranoid. But just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me :).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 5:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Of course...

    BTW, I take back calling you dishonest. I'm sorry. After reading this post I have concluded that there is little reason to believe you are dishonest.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 5:10pm

    Re: Re: Moral Rights

    "In fact the Swedish Pirate Party has been very clear about that they do not want to touch the moral rights but only reform copyright (but this may depend somewhat on how one interprets moral rights)."

    I think the point is that morality often IS an economic question and hence Intellectual property is often an economic question as well. Yes, Intellectual property laws, just like physical property laws, are subject to morality but morality and economics are not mutually exclusive. The moral goal with both intellectual property laws and with physical property laws is to maximize net utility and that's an economic question as well as a moral one.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), Oct 20th, 2009 @ 5:29pm

    again with the morality stuff.

    just backs up what i said the other day that the further you are from the source the less realistic claim you have to moral rights.

    i have a feeling that its actually got nothing to do with moral rights and everything to do with the fact that google is not an EU corporation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 5:40pm

    Re:

    "i have a feeling that its actually got nothing to do with moral rights and everything to do with the fact that google is not an EU corporation."

    I absolutely agree, but I think the U.S. would do the same exact thing to a E.U. corporation just as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 5:47pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Of course...

    "Copyright is intellectual property."

    To be more specific, intellectual property is a superset of copyright. So if it's a matter of copyright then, by definition, it's also a matter of intellectual property. However, it could be a matter of intellectual property and not be a matter of copyright (ie: it could be a matter of patents).

    Intellectual property has four main subsets (it probably has more but these four are the four I can think of right now)

    Copyright, Patents, Trademarks, and Trade Dress. One may also consider trade secrets a subset of intellectual property I suppose? Oh, and there are service marks too.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 9:19pm

    at least moral rights have a natural, ethically sound foundation. Copyright on the other hand is pure, unadulterated commercial privilege, unnatural and unethical.

    Such incredible bullshit...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 20th, 2009 @ 10:51pm

    Re:

    "Would any of them worked if people can just come along and claim your creation as their own?"

    no one claims falsely claiming someone else's work as your own should be allowed. You're just building a strawman.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Ekilio, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 12:35am

    Mistake about moral right

    Hello,

    First of all, sorry for my poor english.

    There's some kind of mistake in your note about "moral right". It's not about good or bad words, or anything like that. Moral right is the law that say that any artistic work must be respected and can't be changed. This right can't be sell, and never stop (even 1000 years after the death of the autors of a book, there is this right).

    Let me use an exemple : let's imagine that someone want to take your text and use it to say that Eurpeans are right to disallow google to digitize books. It's not what you said, so it would be some kind of disrespect of your matter in your text. So it would be forbidden by moral right.

    There's nothing about money in this (the law say that you can't sell your moral right). It's just about the respect of the meaning of the text. But Google don't respect this, because of the ads around the text. If someone write a book about the bible, and if google put some ads about coran around the book, it's a problem for the moral right.

    Nothing more, nothing less.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    oliwek, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 3:58am

    Re: Re: Job Security

    exactly ; the BNF (national french libray) is also discussing the matter right now with google, the opposition in Europe comes first from publishers (and politics)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    oliwek (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 4:05am

    sorry, last post was a reply to :
    LostSailor :
    "Academics and librarians (many of the people pushing to keep Google from doing the digitizing) want to remain as the gatekeepers to books and published journals."

    Actually, quite the opposite. Librarians and libraries are the ones that are enabling Google's digitization project.

    Where do you think Google got all the books that they are digitizing? From libraries, including Harvard, U of Michigan, and, I believe, Stanford. As part of the deal, those libraries get a copy of each scanned book. The libraries are trying to expand access, not limit it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    icon
    oliwek (profile), Oct 21st, 2009 @ 4:22am

    "If google scans the books that doesn't mean they own their intellectual property. They aren't preventing anyone else from scanning the books and offering them on a search engine on their own..."
    not that simple... there seems to be some (temporary) exclusive rights google enjoys...

    this french interview of Robert Darnton (Harvard library) and Bruno Racine (Bibliothèque Nationale de France)is interesting (use some online translation if you have to) :
    http://www.liberation.fr/culture/0101596907-il-faut-s-allier-pour-peser-sur-google

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Whatever, Oct 21st, 2009 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Of course...

    I appreciate you taking back calling me dishonest, on the other hand I confess to exaggerating by saying "owning everything", I'd just hate to see Google turning into Microsoft 2.0 in a distant future.

    "You're the one that's so ignorant you don't even know that copyright IS intellectual property. Who should I believe, your blatant ignorance or those you comment against?"

    Well I was going to start answering this by saying something like what you said in a later comment. I should have said that it's more specifically a matter of "copyright" and also "Moral right"(moral rights can never be transferred or purchased and will always belong to the creator). One must realize that because something is legal in one country (say the US) doesn't imply that it is everywhere else hence Google is legally doing its digitizing in the US with US based copyright materials but (not being an intellectual property lawyer) doing so in the EU might have different legal implications. I'm not saying I am for preventing google from doing it, if it is within the scope of EU laws and the copyright owners of the materials in question are fine with the arrangement.

    The issue starts when Google starts digitizing books without regard to copyrights owners approval. It has been documented that Google has done so for over 5 million books in the EU. Some people don't like the idea of letting everyone read their work online without compensation.
    It is a great project, and it is the future there's no question about it, but like you said, what matters is not so much what Google is doing, but How it's doing it and the How is what is at stake if you go beyond what the article says. Lots of European entities and libraries are and have already collaborated with Google to have their works digitized.
    All I'm trying to point out is that there is more to it than just a fight between good and evil, there are legal implications and they differ from a country to another and everybody need to respect that. Why do people have to get so bent on "hate", if you don't agree with something it's not hate. It's that "either you are with us or against us" motto that makes international cooperation a mess. Life and everything is not binary, we are not robots, that's what negotiations, agreements are for, and for those to occur there has to be a discussion. Google had a great idea, but preventing others (whether in the US or not) or saying others are stealing their idea by doing the same? First off it's not the EU stopping Google and using their idea instead, it's some entities in the EU that are concerned about the way Google handles copyright issues, there's a big difference to take into account before making those
    accusations.

    "Who should I believe, your blatant ignorance or those you comment against?"

    Right, "Eurotrash" IS a second class part of the world then, this has to be a good call indeed.

    "Google intends to scan books that it can legally scan with the authorization of the copyright holders. What's wrong with that?"

    This didn't seem to be the case for a good part of the digitizing going on in EU, and that gets people upset.

    "I do not work for Google but, I admit, I am paranoid. But just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me :)"

    It doesn't concern you at least a little that overtime Google handles most of people searches online, is getting pictures of all the streets in the US, digitizing written works, gathers lots of information from people using their services (think scanning emails to tailor advertisement), soon to be in a lot of cell phones and more as it goes. No matter how much I enjoy everything they provide, there is always something inside of me that makes me cringe at the thought of all this being in the hands of the same company. How would you feel if Google was government owned and they were doing all this? These are just questions that I think are worth asking without being called a hater, or any other kind of extreme adjective :)

    “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Einstein.

    Cheers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This