Authors Guild Petulantly Whines About How Wrong It Is That The Public Will Benefit From Google Books
from the talk-about-sour-grapes dept
Yesterday we wrote about the fairly unsurprising, but still good, news that the Supreme Court had rejected an attempted appeal by the Authors Guild of the really excellent fair use decision by the 2nd Circuit appeals court over whether or not Google scanning books to build a giant, searchable index was fair use.
It’s no surprise that the Authors Guild — which has been tilting at this particular windmill for over a decade — was upset about the refusal to hear the case, but I wasn’t quite expecting the level of ridiculous sour grapes that were put on display:
?Blinded by the public benefit arguments, the Second Circuit?s ruling tells us that Google, not authors, deserves to profit from the digitization of their books,? said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild.
Did you get that? The Authors Guild is so completely out of touch that it actually thinks that “public benefit arguments” have no place in copyright disputes, despite the very fact that the Constitutional underpinnings of copyright law is to maximize the public’s benefit. And, of course, this all ignores the fact that the vast, vast majority of authors greatly benefit from such a searchable index in that it drives more sales of books.
But, on with the hyperbole:
?Today authors suffered a colossal loss,? said Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson. ?We filed the class action lawsuit against Google in September 2005 because, as we stated then, ?Google?s taking was a plain and brazen violation of copyright law.? We believed then and we believe now that authors should be compensated when their work is copied for commercial purposes.?
What you believe, and what the law says, are different. And that was the case back in 2005 when you filed the suit just like many of us said at the time.
?The price of this short-term public benefit may well be the future vitality of American culture,? continued Rasenberger. ?Authors are already among the most poorly paid workers in America; if tomorrow?s authors cannot make a living from their work, only the independently wealthy or the subsidized will be able to pursue a career in writing, and America?s intellectual and artistic soul will be impoverished.?
This is ridiculous on so many levels. First, most authors cannot make a living today because most books don’t sell. That’s not the fault of Google Books. In fact, as noted time and time again, Google Books acts as a discovery mechanism for many books and increases sales (I’ve bought dozens of books thanks to finding them via Google Book Search). Second, the gloom and doom predictions of legacy industries over new technologies is time-worn and has never been even remotely correct.
What Rasenberger leaves out of her ignorant whine is the fact that in the time that Google Books has existed, the number of authors has increased massively. No, they’re not all making a living, but the purpose of copyright law is to incentivize the creation of new works for the public, and the public is getting an astounding amount of new works — a totally unprecedented amount of new works actually — and it’s got nothing to do with anything the Authors Guild has done.
And, of course, the Authors Guild still won’t give up, promising to fight this issue in other courts, hoping to get a circuit split that the Supreme Court will review:
Following the Supreme Court?s order, the Guild vowed to remain vigilant to ensure that the Second Circuit?s ruling is not taken as carte blanche for unfettered digitization of books. ?The Second Circuit decision took pains to highlight that fair use was found based on the strict display restrictions and security measures currently employed by Google,? said Authors Guild general counsel Jan Constantine. ?We?ll continue to monitor Google and its library partners to ensure these standards are met, as we will take appropriate action to ensure that fair use isn?t abused.?
To ensure that fair use isn’t abused? Lovely people at the Authors Guild who outright declare themselves against public benefit, and then worry about the “expansion” and “abuse” of fair use. Does no one at the Authors Guild recognize that their authors are protected by fair use as well and many of them rely on it all the time? Who would ever join such a backwards looking and thinking organization?