Using Google Books To Remove Access To Public Domain Books

from the that's-evil dept

Michael Scott points us to a blog post at Mike Cane’s blog discussing a question asked in the Google Books help forum asking whether or not a publisher named Kessinger Publishing is taking public domain books scanned by Google, printing them, and then trying to block Google Books from offering the whole thing.

The details are a bit sketchy at this point, but it does seem like Kessinger is taking the public domain books scanned by Google and then offering them for sale. The guy investigating it notes that some of the covers on Kessinger’s books clearly show the Google Books-generated cover. Now, it’s important to note that Kessinger reprinting public domain books scanned by Google is perfectly legal (perhaps an argument could be made that Google could claim copyright over some aspect of that cover page it generates, but even that seems like a stretch). There’s nothing infringing (at least in the US — elsewhere, it’s a bit unsettled) about taking someone else’s scan of public domain works and then publishing it yourself.

What’s worrying here is the claim that once Kessinger “republishes” these works, that it’s somehow getting Google Books to no longer show the full editions of the books. It’s not quite as bad as the initial person claims — that Kessinger is “taking books out of the public domain,” as the books do, in fact, remain in the public domain. The real question is why Google is restricting access to these works. If I had to guess, it’s probably due to the fact that Google keeps getting hit with (questionable) copyright lawsuits, so they have a “lock-up first, ask questions later” sort of approach to these things. Unfortunately, if that’s the case, it lets publishers effectively hide books that should be freely available, at least for the time being.

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Comments on “Using Google Books To Remove Access To Public Domain Books”

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out_of_the_blue says:

Who is behind Kessinger Publishing?

Is it a Google front company? Because I’ve predicted that Google is going to “effectively” lock up access to public domain works, perhaps in order to prevent old-fashioned ideas of liberty and common law from being re-discovered. Since there’s curiously no evidence to the contrary — Kessinger Books being several times stated as difficult to communicate with — then I’ll just take this as in accord with my notion that instead of being a public service, Google Books is actually a subtle but wide-ranging way to suppress thought. — Why else does a corporation that size go along with demands of a less-than-obscure publisher from the sticks?

Comboman says:

Google is not careful enough

Unfortunately, Google is often not careful enough about what version of a book they choose to scan. I don’t know about the Kessinger books, but for example the book “Ten Acres Enough” (1864), Google scanned a recent reprint of the book by BiblioBazaar which is protected by copyright (the original text isn’t protected, but the new cover, formating, layout, etc are protected which the scanning process captures), instead of scanning an original copy which is in the public domain and freely available at

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Google is not careful enough

…and there is another problem with copyright.

How can a publisher claim copyright on the formatting of a public domain book and then have some way to prevent it from being scanned into another (digital) format?

Copyright has gotten so twisted up by the middlemen that it no longer helps anyone that it is supposed to.

TheBigJim says:

Kessinger and its suspect business

A book in public domain cannot be recopyrighted

to create a new copyright, changes must be relevant

adding a cover, modify only printed size, is not enough

this is the first malicious act from Kessinger

Kessinger and other BAD companies like Kessinger, try, I think, to OBFUSCATE and MAKING HARD to find, original public domain, scanned by google, that are sources of their reprints

in fact, many times, when Kessinger downloads a new book from googlebooks and then load its REPRINT, with a more recent date, this is done in order to confuse reader and googlebooks

confusing the reader, so he/she, believes does not exist a free browsable copy of book and buy their very poor reprints (very poor why several people are reporting cases of books ordered from kessinger and only partially printed – see here:

that is already a behavior at edges of law (buying for whole book and receiving a book incomplete)

CONFUSING googlebooks, why, with loading a downloadedfromgooglecopy of the book, with a more recent date, can produce the false impression of a book that must be not in full view, and, since this reprinted book has the same title of original public domain book, if googlebooks does not care about these attempts of COPYFRAUD, their system can inhibit access also to public domain copy of the same book, that is , I presume, the think that Kessinger try to obtain

in addition to this, its WHOIS records are obscured (via ID SHIELD I Presume)


a curious thing, legally, but curious for a GREAT PUBLISHING COMPANY

no contact seems available, except for this e-mail address ( I have not tried)

TheBigJim says:

terms of use violated

There is another thing worth to say in this COPYFRAUD case

Kessinger (and others) CAN REPRINT but NOT REPUBLISH

In fact, terms of use of googlebooks books, prohibit the COMMERCIAL USE

now, if a company want offer a REPRINTING service (as public domain has done in past), this must be done WITHOUT to be ludicrous, in other words, price must be low enough to pay ink, paper, shipment and so on…

BUT have you seen KESSINGER prices? their bookstakenfromgooglebooks are

– ever in HARDCOVER (hardcover costs more)
– ever at very high (and so ludicrous) price

I think googlebooks must alert its legal staff against Kessinger

Gary Copeland says:

Public Domain reprints

I would disagree that Kessinger in fact, is, taking the “digitized” books out of the public domain. They cannot simply copy the work in its entirety and slap their own copyright notice on it, this does not constitute a legal copyright. I have indeed purchased a few books of Kessingers in search of public domain material for adaptation and re-arrangement. It used to be pretty convenient for me to search google books to find a title in their catalog specific to content of my interest, then search the ISBN number at any book retailer and order the book to have on hand as hard-copy evidence in the event I ran into somebody claiming copyright infringement on a work adapted and arranged that was already in the public domain. However, now when I access their web address, no direction at all. Any input directs me to Amazon in an attempt to market the reprinted material Kessinger is selling. I cannot even find subject matter topics to find the published material I am looking for. And if I search google books I simply get a preview that does not sufficiently describe to me if the book contains the required material. It is ridiculous… What Kessinger has essentially created is an environment wherein if I want the book, they are the only supplier… Even though I could’ve gotten it for free digitally from google and opted to buy it in the past. I can promise I will never put another dime in Kessingers coffers. Google, please do not let them do this, these works are for the people. They are history. They are public domain. They do NOT belong to Kessinger.

TheBigJim says:

Re: Public Domain reprints

Sorry to hear your words

If we continue to buy from Kessinger, kessinger never will be out of business

Learn, that if Kessinger can REPRINT/REPUBLISH AND RECOPYFRAUD, then, must exist the PUBLIC DOMAIN BOOK source of this reprint (scanned by goole, since Kessinger scans nothing itself)

So, if you don’t find the book you search, in full view, you must write to googlebooks forum

in order to request that this book must be in FULL VIEW

Buying from Kessinger is not a solution, only increases the Kessinger revenues

I remember also that is strictly prohibited making commercial use of googlebooks scans, and Kessinger is making an hard commercial use, so, it must expect a serious lawsuit from google lawyers

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