Book Publisher Resorts To Cheap Stunts: Steals Google Laptops

from the let's-explain-the-difference-between-theft-and-doing-you-a-favor dept

Just as Google is making it even more obvious how their book scanning project is helping publishers by helping them sell more books, it appears that at least one publisher doesn’t seem to understand the difference between helping more people find your books and theft. Apparently the CEO of Macmillan Publishers decided to swipe two Google laptops from Google’s booth at BookExpo America, wait for Google employees to notice the missing laptops (took about an hour) and then claim that he was just giving Google “a taste of their own medicine.” Let’s see. One is taking an expensive scarce item. The other is building an index so more people can find books. If Macmillan’s CEO really thinks that’s the same medicine, than someone ought to check what medication he’s taking.

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Comments on “Book Publisher Resorts To Cheap Stunts: Steals Google Laptops”

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Mark says:


This is the same company that, a few years back, saw fit to publish a job ad for a content editor that included the phrase, “WEB EDITORS NEED NOT APPLY.” Because, of course, my Ph.D. was completely cancelled out by the fact that my professional experience included work for a website.

In short, Macmillan has a two-word mission statement: “Be asinine.”

Shun says:

Comments on original article

The register’s comments are flametastic, and somewhat overshadow these comments. Basically, there’s a lot of copyright violation == theft type things going on here.

Personally, I am not against Google’s project, but I am not an author. If I had a vested interest in the publishing world, I am sure that I would feel different.

Anyway, back to the point : what McMillan man did would technically be classified as theft, or conversion, at best. I do not think a person of his reputation should be pulling high-school pranks of this nature, but then I was brought up to be courteous and respectful.

Not that I always am, however. Still, I would not open myself up to litigation/prosecution and openly brag about it on my blog, if I were the CEO of a big company.

dj says:

Re: Re: Me

Yes! Finally, someone who detects the true idiocy of this stunt! –Just taking the laptops and then giving them back is lame and a poor analogy. He should have *copied* the laptops, then widely distributed pamphlets about the laptops while offering the entire contents of the laptop in book form at his exhibitor booth. This would improve the analogy while simultaneously mitigating the lameness.

Bob Sadler says:

Is this the day for STUPID EXECUTIVE Triacks?

The CEO, are you sure? I mean, come on, maybe I’ll buy a programmer doing this, or perhaps someone in the Finance department, but NOT the CEO!

This CEO and the idiot Microsoft Manager/Engineer must be thinking David Letterman is having STUPID EXECUTIVE tricks on his show tonight!

rEdEyEz says:

How friggin asinine can he be?

Yep, I bet “he and the boys” got a good chuckle out of that one, by gawd, heh, heh.

“I felt rather shabby playing this trick on Google. They should feel the same playing the same trick on authors and publishers.”

To use the vernacular, “this guy is a total asshat”

…Yes, include “authors” in your statement to give it some “moral” relevance, Yackoff, as if stealing property, (i.e. a notebook), is that same as digitally copying your clients copyrighted media… (huh?)

This man is a CEO? CLEARLY he has a comprehensive understanding of his own business capabilities/model, and is fully qualified to leverage that model to the benefit of all of those he represents. (not)

Time for the board to convene…

Matthew says:

I for one, am with Macmillan.

I know most of you are all for google, but almost every book published is copyrighted by the publisher and / or author. In fact, open up any book you have with you right now (you do read printed books, don’t you?) and look at the bold copyright notice which goes something like “No part of these books may be reproduced in any form except by the original retail purchaser for their own personal use.”

Google chooses to blatantly violate this, and expects publishers and / or authors to explicitly notify google if they don’t want their works scanned. I wouldn’t say Macmillan is asinine, google is.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: I for one, am with Macmillan.

First, this is a copyright notice: © 2007 Vincent Clement.

Second, there is this little thing called Fair Use that trumps anything that a publisher or copyright owners may say about how a book can be used or reproduced. The book scanning project falls under fair use. Contrary to popular belief, the fact that you make money via fair use does not invalidate fair use.

Fair Use – US Copyright Office

Mike (profile) says:

Re: I for one, am with Macmillan.


look at the bold copyright notice which goes something like “No part of these books may be reproduced in any form except by the original retail purchaser for their own personal use.”

You do realize that just because a publisher says that, it doesn’t mean it’s true, right?

There are clear exceptions to copyright, and one very important one is “fair use.” What Google is doing pretty clearly qualifies under fair use — especially since it’s helping to sell more books.

The idea that it’s theft is simply laughable.

Joni Mueller says:

Re: Re: I for one, am with Macmillan.

So according to you, Mike, and Vincent, earlier, I can download a copy of a book from Usenet, perhaps even an eBook, and sleep well at night on my Fair Use pillow?

It just seems to me that the Fair Use clause (found at 17 USC § 107) prohibits wholesale copying of a work. Maybe some legal eagle will weigh in later. (Don’t look at me, I just work for lawyers.)

Kaila Colbin (user link) says:

Macmillan CEO has a spited face


Well done to point out the copyright issues faced by publishers. It’s a shame that the CEO’s tactics have now managed to effectively eclipse the problem he was intending to highlight and reroute the entire conversation to the stupidity of his actions.

That’s why his move wasn’t wise–not because Google doesn’t engage in copyright infringement.

Kaila Colbin

SailorRipley says:

Re: Macmillan CEO has a spited face

his move wasn’t wise for several reasons:

1) what he did was theft (never a smart thing, because he could get in serious trouble just for the act of his “protest”)

2) “a taste of their own medicine” doesn’t apply since they accuse Google of copyright infringement (which is not theft)

3) failure to come up with a proper “taste of their own medicine” procedure

4) Google isn’t guilty of copyright infringement, as what Google does is covered by fair use (and whether they make a profit or not is not relevant)

5) demonstrating your own stupidity is never wise

pk says:

Please explain...

Some here claim the scanning of books increases sales.
Perhaps it does.

However, what does that have to do with copyright law or fair use? I’ve done a little reading on copyright and fair use and I haven’t read anything that suggests that acceptable use can be based on whether the use impacts sales.

Perhaps someone can explain what the potential for increased sales has to do with acceptable use?

fb says:

I for one, am with Macmillan

I think you need to do more research before speaking (or writing in this case).

“Fair Use” by no means implies that you can “download a book from Usenet”. What it implies is that portions of the copyright content can be reproduced by anyone without permission from the copyright holder.

Now I understand that the whole books’ content is required for indexing, however, the index is not open, in whole, to the public. Instead you have to search it. Yes, theoretically I could put in different search terms and *possibly* extract the content of the book, but that would take so long and so much time that it’s most likely not worth it (it’s much easier to click on the Google supplied link and purchase the book).

So in no certain terms does Google violate Copyright. Now had they displayed, or allowed users to download the copyrighted work as a whole or provided links to pirated copies of the copyrighted work then there would be trouble. But, to date, I have heard of no such case.

Meme says:

Give me all the money you make from your web site

Okay, I copied your website…Everyhing to my computer. My friends now read your assinine stuff on my computer. I have also copied every word and every thing from your website to another domain name. Millions of people are reading your work now and not visitine the real website anymore.



You no longer recieve any revenue from ads on your site. You no longer get paid for your work.

Now please thank me.

Are you a moron?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Give me all the money you make from your web s

Okay, I copied your website…Everyhing to my computer.

Yup. Actually, that happens every time anyone views this website. They are making a local copy on their computer called a cache.

My friends now read your assinine stuff on my computer. I have also copied every word and every thing from your website to another domain name. Millions of people are reading your work now and not visitine the real website anymore.

Awesome, if true (though I doubt it). I have said repeatedly that it’s fine if other sites make use of our content. I’m not sure why you think we’d complain. Other sites already make use of our content, and it actually drives more traffic, because they figure out they should just come here first… and also they want to engage in the discussion, which doesn’t happen on other sites.


We don’t make copyright claims. I’m not sure what you’re talking about concerning getting paid for our labor. Our business is doing just fine. If you help bring us more traffic, that’s fantastic. If you actually can take traffic away from us (and I don’t see how by just copying our content) then that’s just competition. Gives us more reason to be better at what we do.

You no longer recieve any revenue from ads on your site. You no longer get paid for your work.

Actually, advertising isn’t really our business model, so if we received no ad money it wouldn’t be a big deal. You seem to be speaking without knowing what you’re talking about.

Now please thank me.

Thank you!

Donna says:

good for MacMillan

Copyright is copyright. I say, “Good for the CEO!” for letting people know — in a harmless, humorous way — that at least one publisher (I would venture that more than one publisher has concerns…) is not happy with Google’s lastest copyright infringement. It’s a slippery slope and if publishers and authors don’t dig in their heels, we’re all sliding down to the bottom together and landing in an incomprehensible heap.

Sean McManus (user link) says:

It's about who decides what happens to content

Copying a book in its entirety is certainly outside the bounds of fair use, even if only portions of it at a time are made available to the public. Copyright law gives the owners of a creative work the right to decide who can copy their work. By not seeking their permission in advance, Google is breaching copyright law. It doesn’t matter whether or not Google’s use increases or decreases sales – the issue is that it’s not up to them to decide.

It’s like the laptop: the computer belongs to Google, so they get to decide who can use it. If Pan MacMillan took the computer, put it in an internet cafe so everyone could use it, it would be wrong. Even if Google sold a few more adverts from the brand exposure.

Incidentally, Google’s attitude is very one-sided. Everyone else’s copyright is theirs for the taking. But Google’s pretty firm about asserting its own rights in its content and brand.

hoss cartwright says:

stealing laptops

My father left his garden tiller out beside the road one time, I drove by in my pickup truck and saw it, backed up and loaded it up. When he realized his tiller was gone I came back over and returned it. He never left it beside the road again.
What does this have to do with Google scanning books, and laptop computers? I don’t know, but I feel there is a moral here somewhere. Yee haw !!!!

Chris says:

Do you not understand?

Ok…Yes google does scan the books for their index. Let me repeat…their INDEX. At no time can you or anyone else “lookup” the entire book…just keywords which give you a “glimpse” of information which surround that keyword or words….

The failure of most copyhouses to understand and better profit in our new (not so new) internet world does not make his actions justified or even legal.

The Fair use clause allows this kind of information retreival which google is attempting to do. Just because the publishers objects do not make this copyright infringement. I am an author, and I am not in anyway or form “worried” that sales of my material will be affected in an inverse way….

Brad says:

Mike -- you don't get it...

They’re a reference publisher. They make their money answering questions for people who buy their books.

If those books are scanned completely and available via Google, the need to buy a print book goes out the window. In a reference book you NEVER need the entire book, but you need a section here or there over time. Placing the book in Google just makes it easier to find that information without buying the book.

As soon as the ad revenue from those online views tops the revenue they get from selling print books, publishers will change and put their content online. Until then, the books online gut their profits and their ability to pay authors to create the material in the first place.

I think I’ll turn on my Ad blocking software (we all should right! Ads are a form of DRM — they slow my access to your content and irritate me!) and keep surfing your site. I’m not really stealing ’cause I wasn’t going to buy anything from your advertisers or you anyway…

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