Google Asking For Help In Making Sure Public Domain Books Are Recognized As Public Domain

from the good-to-see dept

Recently, we wrote about how some book publishers appeared to be using public domain books from Google to make their own books (which is mostly fine), but then telling Google that its books were copyrighted, causing the full versions to disappear from Google — which is not cool at all. Perhaps in response to this, apparently Google is now asking people in their forums to identify books within Google Books that are in the public domain, so that Google can investigate and see if they should be opened up as public domain books (found via Glyn Moody). I don’t know if this is a direct response to those earlier complaints, but it’s always nice to see a company not just respect the public domain, but do its best to make sure what belongs there is properly included.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google Asking For Help In Making Sure Public Domain Books Are Recognized As Public Domain”

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21 Comments
Ric (profile) says:

Similar things are happening with songs, too

A couple days ago I was looking through the blues section at the Audio Archive ( http://www.archive.org/details/audio ) at the Internet Archive, and noticed that one musician had placed a note that three different radio shows had played a song of his that he had placed in the public domain and then claimed copyrights on his song and he was threatening to leave the notice in the description until Archive Org started sticking up for the public domain rights in their collections.

mcvooty (profile) says:

Don't rush to judgment

More information is needed before objecting to what publishers may or may not be doing. If I take “Hamlet” and add annotations, the result is a new work under the copyright law and I can claim copyright in it…no one can copy my book, at least not with the annotations. That doesn’t interfere with everyone’s continued right to copy Hamlet, per se.

TJGeezer (profile) says:

Greed Is Good Dept.

C’mon, all you critics, lighten up. Don’t you realize that, in the U.S. at least, corporations now own the government, courts and all? They do whatever the hell they want and the public interest has nothing to do with policy or anything else, not even in their rhetoric. That does it for the basis of the public domain. In the spirit of the sorts of people who preface irrelevant remarks with a faux long-suffering “Sigh,” I must say it is only right that they steal from the public. After all, they have money, they have power, and they can.

Goog watcher says:

Public domain = $ for Google -- DUH!

You’re kidding me — you think this is somehow NOBLE?

Wake up, readers — Google makes money from Pub Domain because they don’t have to pay for the rights to the books. _This makes for more “free,” ad-supported browsing, which means more ad revenues for GOOG, the great commoditizer of everything they do not own._

And btw — do you think TechDirt doesn’t know it?

To paraphrase the old Clinton campaign, it’s the advertising, stupid.

Michael Ward (profile) says:

Kessinger / Google / Full View

Kessinger’s been doing PD reprints for years. In the early days they photocopied the pages and provided hard copy reprints of books that were difficult to find.

With Google and others providing usable electronic texts, it’s gotten easier for Kessinger to find source material. In a lot of cases, I suspect, the physical books don’t even exist until someone buys a copy — and at that point the copy is printed off and sent to the buyers.

The two key issues are:
(1) Is Kessinger claiming a bogus copyright? — and if so, what are the penalties?
(2) Is Google actually keeping a PD book out of Full View because someone like Kessinger claims a copyright, or is it just poor management at the Google project?

Regarding (2), Google has a history of screwing up the titles and descriptions (aka metadata) so that it can be impossible to find, e.g. all the volumes in a series. Some volumes may have variant titles; some may be in Full View while others are just not available, though already scanned; and some may simply be missing.

The Goog needs to hire a few hundred librarians just to figure out what they already do have.

On their behalf I will now add that trying to figure out which books can be read in Full View, in which countries, has to be a nightmare of awesome proportions.

bowerbird (profile) says:

(what a treat to see michael ward’s name right above! hi michael!)

anyway, here’s the comment i left over at google…

sofia-

i’m so glad google is finally addressing this issue!  thank you!

but let us not be disingenuous, ok?  the vast majority of books
that are being hijacked from the public-domain are being lifted
by a small number of companies.  google knows who they are.
you don’t need us to identify the books one by one, individually.

-bowerbird

Michael Ward (profile) says:

Re: bowerbird's comment

bowerbird! hey, where you been, buddy? Great to see you’re still raising a ruckus.

OK, back to work: Are there specific examples of Kessinger, for example, causing a book to be removed from Full View because of a claimed copyright, or is it just folklore? So far we’re long on fears and short on examples.

I love what Google is doing in making rare volumes available for easy download, but am continually dismayed by the erratic way in which they do it: missing or distorted pages, broken sets, and volumes which are clearly in the PD in all countries but not available in Full View.

It’s that last consideration we’re talking about here.

bowerbird (profile) says:

michael said:
> bowerbird! hey, where you been, buddy?

hanging around… :+)

> Great to see you’re still raising a ruckus.

i’m a hit-man, brother — honesty, integrity, and truth…

> OK, back to work: Are there specific examples
> of Kessinger, for example, causing a book to be
> removed from Full View because of a claimed copyright,
> or is it just folklore? So far we’re long on fears and
> short on examples.

i’ll go ask over on the project gutenberg listserve.
i am quite sure they can give us some examples…

-bowerbird

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