Online Publishers Upset That Google Helps People Find Them

from the how-dare-they! dept

Is there anyone in the content business who won’t eventually shoot themselves in the foot by misunderstanding the internet? While the debate over Google Print has been going on for a while, a few perceptive folks have mentioned that it was only a matter of time before the idea jumped to the internet as a whole. If what Google is doing with Google Print is considered copyright infringement, how is it any different than what they’re doing online already? They’re scanning and indexing all kinds of online content, and making it available with ads. It’s really the same thing. Of course, for most of this, would seem like an argument in favor of Google Print. However, for others, it’s an argument against the whole concept of search engines like Google. The head of the European Publishers Council is complaining that online publishers can’t put their content online for free any more, letting Google profit off of the ads. He also claimed that, rather than publishers recognizing that their business model had to change, it’s all the content consumers who have to change: “The value of content must be understood by consumers so that new business models can evolve. Industry must have legal certainty and the confidence that their intellectual property will be protected.” Right, see, the problem is that new business models are evolving — it’s the publishers who have been slow to embrace them. We hinted at this coming confrontation earlier this year when we noted many publishers (including bloggers) were complaining when anyone else made their content more accessible and more desirable. Making life better for users always opens up plenty of new business opportunities. Demanding that all users change their behavior (or calling them all criminals) tends to do the reverse and only hasten the destruction of increasingly obsolete business models.

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Comments on “Online Publishers Upset That Google Helps People Find Them”

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Mike (profile) says:

Re: perhaps I don't understand

I think maybe you’re confused, and I apologize if our story gave the wrong impression. Let me try to clarify.

There are two separate issues here that I think you’re confusing.

The first is that this story is talking about regular *online* content, not books. They’re complaining that Google shouldn’t be allowed to make money on ads from finding free content online. Instead, they think publishers should hide all that content and make people pay for it.

Second, though, on the book issue, you again appear to have heard incorrectly. Google is not making books free online. What they’re doing is scanning them so that you can search the content. You only see a tiny fraction of the book, so you can see if there’s a book relevant to what you’re looking for. It’s like a new card catalog that would index all books. You can then go buy the book as you normally would. So, for the most part, this should help sell more books.

Second, there are still plenty of people out there who prefer reading books in book format, so even *if* Google made the whole book available (which they’re not), plenty of people would still buy the book to have it in tangible form.

bored at work (profile) says:

Re: Re: perhaps I don't understand

I get it now. I was just never clear what it was they were doing or how it worked and now i see the controversy. It is pretty rediculous that publishers would be so against this as it seems pretty obvious it has great potential to drive up their sales.

As for the online content I still see nothing wrong with what google is doing. They have as much potential to make money off of their content by adding ads but chose not too. Google is seeing an opporunity and seizing it as they should. This kind of smart thinking and ingenuity used to be applauded but now people fear it. It’s a shame really and I can only hope it doesn’t continue to happen in the years ahead.

theStorminMormon says:

Re: Re: Re:3 the real reason publishers are mad

You said it. The real reasons publishers oppose what Google is doing is not that they have any legitimate claim that Google is infringing their copywrite, it’s that Google is making money using their materials fairly, and they (publishers) wish they had thought of it.

In a way I can see their point. Publishers make the information available in the first place. Then Google comes along and profits from works they didn’t pay to make.

But the reality is that Google isn’t profiting from the books, it’s profiting from the ability to make the books searchable. That’s a service that Google innovated, Google is perfecting, and Google is doing the work (scanning the texts) to make the service work.

So really it’s just a case of sour grapes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: perhaps I don't understand

All Google is doing is what card catalogs have done for hundreds of years. It’s completely fair-use to index and catalog a book. I don’t see how the publishers were even able to generate controversy over this, or why they would want to. Google Print helps everyone and hurts, let’s see here… no one.

JT says:

Re: perhaps I don't understand

Here are some of the guidelines listed on Google’s website (definately saying that they are not giving away copywrited material).

When we find a book whose content contains a match for your search terms, we’ll link to it in your search results. Click a book title and you’ll 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. You may also see the Sample Pages View if the publisher or author has given us permission or the Full Book View if the book is out of copyright. In all cases, you’ll also see ‘Buy this Book’ links that lead directly to online bookstores where you can buy the book.

As part of our efforts to protect the rights of copyright holders, we restrict the amount of any given book’s content that users are able to read (unless the book is out of copyright ? Full Book View), so some pages will be unavailable.

whosawhat? says:

How am I supposed to find the content?

These people have no leg to stand on. How am I supposed to find the news content and read it if there is no way to search for it.

If Google stole the article and posted it on the front page of then yes… We have a problem. But all they do is highlight the article.

I didn’t even know about Techdirt until the Google personilized homepage came out. Now I read it every day thanks to the RSS feed.

If anything, the news station is getting FREE advertisement via the web and Google should exclude them from any search or news feed. See how much they like that.


Dam says:

Re: How am I supposed to find the content?

These people have no leg to stand on. How am I supposed to find the news content and read it if there is no way to search for it.

Hey, just because we put it out there, doesn’t mean we want you to find it.
We just like making web pages that NO ONE CAN FIND!!
The idiot publishers of the world

Luke James says:

Google model is old... goes back to pirate days

There is nothing cool pr wonderful about Google or their business model. They think they are like fishermen, just gathering up God’s free little roaming creatures. But to some of us they are like a fox, stealing from the hen house.

That intellectual content out there isn’t free roaming, it belongs to individuals and corporations, and many believe under present law that owners have the sole right to determine how its used, not Google.

No, it’s not “fair use.” First, most books state that they may not be stored on a “retrieval system” without permission, and that’s what Google is doing. Legally there are 4 tests for fair use, and it would be hard to imagine how Google qualifies for any of them.

Second, permission is required from authors or publishers. Google says they want to skip that step and require authors and publishers to contact them and ask them not to steal their work. Outrageous! But without seeking people to ask permission, Google cuts their paperwork and adds billions to their profits. Is this ethical?

Google does not have a wonderful new revolutionary business model – it appears they are just another giant greedy corporation profiting from the intellectual property of others.

They just want to “organize the world’s information”? Hype! It’s about money and power as usual.

Johnno (user link) says:

Money from ads

This article mentions that Google is “scanning and indexing all kinds of online content, and making it available with ads”.

I understand how Google makes money from these ads that appear on search result pages (AdWords), but I don’t understand what is wrong with this?

They’re a company, and the whole purpose of a company is to make money. They make money from what they’ve built, and at the same time offer an invaluable service to the web.

Any web site owner or book publisher who opposes Google archiving their content for the sole purpose of searching is a total fool.

whatsupdoc says:

Re: Money from ads

The issue here is who has the right to control intellectual property. Historically, creators (such as authors) have had that power and it is embodied in our copyright laws.

If google is copying without the right to do so, as many think is true, then they are not profiting off their own work, but the work of others.

They have been using other people’s web sites and pictures for their profit up to this point, now they are talking about putting copyright books in their search engine.

They don’t want to ask permission and they don’t want to pay authors anything for copying a book or displaying snippets, they just want to make money for themselves off ads.

Jeremy Utley (user link) says:

Re: Re: Money from ads

Do content publishers require a library to pay a fee to have their book listed in that library’s card catalog (or electronic equivalent)? I’ll bet the answer is an emphatic NO. And why? Because that listing in the card catalog helps people to find the book they want – and what’s more, the publisher’s don’t even profit from that – the person will just check it out of the library, read it, return it, and MAYBE, if they really liked it, buy a copy for their own personal library.

Do content publishers require people to pay a fee when they quote material from a book in a term paper? No, because that is considered fair use under our current copyright laws.

Google is doing nothing different than either of these samples. Think of as an online library card catalog. Think of their snippets of copyright books as quotations. Everything falls under fair use.

whatsupdoc says:

Re: Re: Re: Money from ads

Well, you’re missing the point on so many levels, Jeremy, that it makes the issue difficult to discuss. But I’m going to try anyway. 8)

There is no relationship between a library and a search engine. A library purchases copies of books, then lends them to readers who, hopefully, enjoy the experience. Writers get their royalties, publishers get their profits. Writer, publisher, reader, library all win. No one is making a copy, so no theft is going on.

The search engine scenerio is vastly different. A search engine company makes a digital copy of the book, and, in the view of many, by so doing steals the book. The right to allow copies to be made is held only by the copyright holder,(thus the name “copyright”), not a search engine company.

They say they will only show snippets in a search, but that’s really not relevant. They are showing parts of the books to generate contextual ads, but they are not paying for the context (book snippet) on which the ad was based. So they are using the literary property of another person for their own financial gain.

Not a big deal? Good. Then they should pay the author a fee for using material from his or her book to generate sales revenue for the ad that pops up based on the context the author provided. Remember, the ad is not for the book. If the author wrote about George Washington, the ad could be about hotels in Washington DC or anything that was contextual from the snippet.

You see, no context, no ad. They have to steal the work of the guy who created the context (book and resulting snippet) to make money from the ads.

I seriously doubt any search engine company cares about “making books more available.” That’s a corporate con. If they really cared about that, they’d be in the bookselling business, not the advertising business. Content means context, context means ad revenue. If they can steal the content, it means more profit for them. No rocket science there.

You ask, “Do content publishers require people to pay a fee when they quote material from a book….” Damn right they do! They have to get written permission and there is often a fee based on importance and/or amount used. It is standard operating procedure in the publishing industry and virtually all publishers have a “permissions” or “rights” department, and they are normally very profitable. They are selling something valuable they own, the rights to allow others to copy their intellectual property. There have been major court cases about this and they are ongoing.

Term papers are one of the few places where “fair use” provisions of the copyright law actually apply… educational use, no profit, footnoted, etc. This is a far cry from a mega corporation stealing the intellectual property rights of others en masse for its own profit.

If Google were really an online card catalog, no one would care. But it’s not just a card, they’re copying the whole book.

No one cares that they are copying books in the public domain. They are being sued by authors and publishers now because they seem to have a “f**k you” attitude toward copyright holders. Google appears to be the new “robber barons” in American corporate history.

You say, “Everything falls under fair use.” That’s total non-sense.

NOTHING falls under fair use if it was copyright from 1923 forward (couple of exceptions for non-renewal)unless it meets a very narrow definition in the copyright law, which you can read about here:

You’ll notice on that page that copying full books to make huge profits by selling ads based on their content is not one of the 4 elements of fair use.

If Google was fair, they’d simply seek out copyright holders and ask their permission to use content. If they could not find the copyright holder, they would not copy the book. If the copyright holder wanted a royalty for providing the content that generated the ad, Google should be prepared pay. If they don’t want to pay what is asked, they shouldn’t copy the book.

That’s the way it is with intellectual property, and in publishing of all kinds. Google is a publisher. Why should they get a free ride?

Incognito says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Money from ads

You anti google people are so thick!. What if google decided that your content was banned from their index unless YOU paid THEM a fee? After all why should you get a free ride on their valuable service. You get paid when you sell a book that someone finds through their search index but where is googles cut for bringing you that sale? Can’t you people see that this is free advertising for you? And they even provide a link where your customer can buy the book from you? So what if google serves an ad with the search results. What about a magazine that does a review of your book including quotes from it and then places an ad on the same page as the review. Surely they are now profiting from your work in this case too but I don’t hear you complaining about that.

By all means tell google not to include your works in its search results. If you are too thick to see how this benefits you I don’t think you could write anything I would find enlightening anyway.

JQ says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Money from ads

whatsupdoc, I realize this simple statement cover the entire argument, but I’m making it anyway. If google is different than a library because the library pays for the books before letting people read the entire thing, then it would seem reasonable that google could pay the publishers for the book and subsequently lend the book out to users. Maybe with some sort of copy-protection and self destructing code. Just a suggestion.
Possible response: ‘If google put it in electronic form, someone could hack any code designed to protect the book from copying.’
Response: True, but does the library make sure that a person with a scanner/copier doesn’t copy it while they have it for 3-4 weeks? No.

Flame me if you will I can handle criticism, I’m married.

super ling says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Money from ads

notice on the website whatsupdoc posted
it says one of the determining factors of fair use is “the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work”
now unless it’s illeagal to increase the market value for someones work, I think google print is leagal

Steve-o says:

No Subject Given

It seems relatively obvious that ?whatsupdoc? and ?Luke James? are not only both industry shills, but also have little if any understanding of what they are talking about. They both seem to be operating under the misunderstanding that people are somehow reading the books in the Google database, and then being tempted by the ads that accompany the text they are reading. That is simply not how it works boys.

A person performs a search for a subject, say ?George Washington,? on the Google books page. The search results that are returned by Google are a bunch of books about, or referring to ?George Washington,? with, and this is the best part ? links to places where the person can, get this, BUY the book. The page also provides a link to a relevant snippet from the book, so the person performing the search can make an informed decision about buying the book ? or not.

This is simply a more aggressive version of ?look inside? feature.

This is what not-catastrophically-stupid people like to call ?free advertising.?

But yes, there is paid advertising as well. There are, on the bottom of the pages, links to other web sites as well ? links I am sure that Google gets paid to place there. Whooptiedoo.

Does this violate the copyright of the publisher? Maybe, probably not, but maybe ? it is an arguable point. But the thing is, that any publisher who sues Google for providing them with free advertising is simply, catastrophically stupid. Even if Google is violating the publisher?s copyright, they are still making the publisher more money by doing it. Turning away money (when your purpose is to make money) in order to obsessively control every aspect of your creation is asinine in the extreme.

Quite frankly ? Google should be charging the publishers a fee for listing their books and providing contextual search results.

whatsupdoc says:

Re: No Subject Given

>> “Industry shill” ??

Can’t there be an exchange of ideas on the internet anymore without personal attacks? Can’t people honestly and forthrightly defend their position without being called a name? I guess there’s no chance you’re a Google shill, right?

>> “Even if Google is violating the publisher?s copyright, they are still making the publisher more money by doing it.

Believe it or not, publishers would prefer not to have their work stolen no matter how much money it might make them. How much extra money did the record companies make when millions of songs where being stolen? None, or else they wouldn’t have been suing people to stop the stealing of intellectual property.

The courts will decide if Google is acting legally by copying books without first seeking permission. That’s good enough for me.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Believe it or not, publishers would prefer not to have their work stolen no matter how much money it might make them.

Stolen is a loaded word… and a false one. As we’ve explained repeatedly, the correct legal term is infringement. Even the Supreme Court has made it clear that infringement is not stealing. If you want to discuss this intelligently than lets use the correct language.

How much extra money did the record companies make when millions of songs where being stolen? None, or else they wouldn’t have been suing people to stop the stealing of intellectual property.

Actually, most independent studies have shown that file sharing has had a neutral to positive impact on sales. So, your argument doesn’t really hold. The industry simply refuses to believe it’s possible, because what the studies also show is that they will need to change how they do business, and learn to support more moderately successful artists, rather than just a few major superstars.

whatsupdoc says:

Re: Re: Re: No Subject Given

“most independent studies have shown that file sharing has had a neutral to positive impact on sales.”

So, you mean everyone who downloaded a copy without paying also bought a copy? That’s about the only way you get get a neutral impact.

Those who copped a copy (steal, infringe – it’s all taking without paying. Applies to canybars at the 711 too) would have to go out and buy two copies to get a positive impact.

It costs money to create intellectual property. People deserve to be paid for their efforts, and not have it taken from them by big corportations who expect to make huge advertising profits by using material without paying for it, or ever bothering to get permission from the copyright holder.

The rule of law is a good thing. Monopolies are a bad thing. Google is not special, and they need to play by the rules too.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No Subject Given

“So, you mean everyone who downloaded a copy without paying also bought a copy? That’s about the only way you get get a neutral impact.”

No, ?doc,? the way you show a net gain is by showing that more people bought a song, or a CD, after downloading it than would have bought the song or CD had no one ever downloaded it.

Think of it like the kindly old lady giving out samples of ?Hot Pockets? at the grocery store. The grocery store has figured out that the more stuff they give away, the more stuff people buy. Even when every person who samples a hot pocket doesn?t buy one, the store still experiences a net gain in sales.

You see, people who download songs, decide they like them, and then go out and buy CDs and other junk. Hard for your industry masters to believe, but true just the same. You see, just like the Google issue, it is called free advertising.

But people who do not download stuff, or try the Hot Pockets, and never experience the cheesy goodness of the latest Britney Spears / Hot Pocket creation, never find that they like it ? and NEVER buy ANYTHING.

The difference in the analogy, is that the grocery store has to pay for the samples they give away, and they have to pay the nice old lady to stand around giving stuff away. Your industry masters have people doing all the leg work for them, so for them, giving away the samples is all free. Sure, your masters don?t get paid for the guy who downloads Britney?s newest single, decides he doesn?t like it, and doesn?t go out and buy a CD ? but they weren?t going to get paid for the CD he wasn?t going to buy ANYWAY ? so there is no loss. Just free advertising.

Does it infringe in copyright? Yes. Are your dark master?s within their rights to stop people from doing it? Yes. Are they catastrophically stupid for doing it? In ways neither you could ever comprehend.

Look, we know you are getting paid to regurgitate this company propaganda, (otherwise you would not insist on using the word ?stealing? even when you know it is inaccurate) and that is cool I guess, everyone needs a job, but could you at least be a little less blatant about it?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No Subject Given

So, you mean everyone who downloaded a copy without paying also bought a copy? That’s about the only way you get get a neutral impact.

You mean you honestly believe that anyone who downloads a song would have bought it otherwise?

Are you suggesting, also, that all of those studies were wrong?

The rule of law is a good thing. Monopolies are a bad thing.

This is your funniest statement, because the whole point of intellectual property law is to grant a monopoly to someone. Do you not see the irony in what you’re saying?

It costs money to create intellectual property. People deserve to be paid for their efforts, and not have it taken from them

It costs money to do lots of things. If you don’t have a valid business model, you don’t get anything back. No one “deserves” to get paid for anything. You get paid if you can sell stuff. If you can’t then you need a new business model.

Mousky (user link) says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

“How much extra money did the record companies make when millions of songs where being stolen? None, or else they wouldn’t have been suing people to stop the stealing of intellectual property.”

Most studies showed that music downloaders spent more money on music than non-downloaders. Ask yourself this: if the music companies were successful in stopping all copyright infringement, would they see an increase in revenue (or at least an increase that substantially exceeds the amount spent on fighting copyright infringment)? My gut tells me that the increase in revenue would be negligible.

Mousky (user link) says:

Re: No Subject Given

Whenever a person clicks on a Google ad via the Google Book web site, the publisher of the book that was displayed on that page receives a percentage of the ad revenue. Not only do publishers receive free advertising and free links to web sites that sell the book, they get a portion of the ad revenue. How is Google Books harming publishers and authors?

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