Complaints Against Google Book Scanning Project Reach Ridiculous Levels
from the did-you-really-just-say-that? dept
So my main complaint with the "settlement" is why it's needed at all. Google had a strong fair use case in how it was running the book scanning project, and I saw no reason to cave. In caving, it's only set up plenty of other copyright battles -- with music companies, the press, video companies and more -- all demanding their share of Google's profits, for no reason other than that Google has scanned their works and points more people to it. There are, certainly, other objectionable parts to the settlement, but my main objection is the idea that it's even needed at all.
However, many others are objecting to the settlement for a series of increasingly ridiculous reasons, that make little sense. Gary Reback, the famed anti-trust lawyer who helped bring the antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft a decade ago, is working with the Open Book Alliance -- a group that most certainly has admirable goals in terms of its own book scanning project, but which is clearly complaining about the "settlement" because it will give Google a leg up over its own efforts. Reback's filing over the matter makes the claim that that the agreement represents an antitrust issue:
"Google could never have achieved through free-market competition the dominant position in digital books it seeks through the proposed settlement," reads Reback's filing. "Unwilling to compete for share in the open market, Google chose instead to use court process to achieve dominance."Really? As Danny Sullivan points out, despite Reback's claims, Google's dominant position in the digital book market was achieved via free market competition. To claim that it couldn't have been is simply wrong. It's then flat out misleading to suggest that Google "chose to use court process to achieve dominance" because it wasn't Google that used the process. Remember, it was the Authors Guild and various publishers who sued Google.
Next up, we have the Europeans, who are complaining about the Google book settlement as well. This is hardly a surprise. After all, it's been nearly five years since officials in France declared Google's book scanning project a threat to national French culture, and then got together with other European governments to dump billions of dollars into a ill-defined "competitor" that has produced little of consequence (and, indeed, seemed to have no direction). The competitor has been so useless that the French National Library -- whose boss first raised the alarm about the book scanning project five years ago -- has thrown in the towel and signed a deal with Google to allow the company to scan its books.
So, what's their complaint? Well, it's the same old complaint, that Google's book scanning project is somehow a threat to their culture:
European officials fear that if the Google project goes ahead in the US, a yawning transatlantic gap will open up in education and research.James Boyle unleashes his wit in response:
"Oh my God! The Americans are about to create a private workaround of the enormous mess that we regulators have made of national copyright policy! They will fix the unholy legal screwups that leave most of 20th century culture books unavailable, yet still under copyright! They will gain access to their cultural heritage -- giving them a huge competitive advantage in education. This MUST BE STOPPED!! No one can be allowed to fix this for any other country because then we would be left alone stewing in our own intellectual property stupidity! We must forbid their progress in order to protect our ignorance."Again, the settlement deal has tons of problems, and I still can't see how it's necessary or how it helps -- but many of the complaints about it are simply ridiculous.