What’s A Week On The Web Without Controversy? over at MediaPost, I’m
literally shaking my head in disbelief at the confusion in the article and what
it may breed among those who read it. So once again, I’m going to dive into what
Google Print is, what it does and the difference between that and what I’m going
to call Google Library. Perhaps some history will be helpful given all the
debate in recent weeks.
Google Print was launched in December
2003 with the full cooperation of participating publishers, as our
Introduces Book Searches article from that time explains more. You couldn’t
actually search on a Google Print site at that time, however. Instead, matches
from Google Print would show up in regular search results, and you could click
through to very limited excerpts. Interestingly, Random House was one of the
participating publishers back then, whereas today, it’s
Google Print because of the Google Library project I’ll discuss below.
In October 2004, Google greatly expanded the way for publishers to
participate in Google Print, as well as making it possible to see the full-text
of books in varying amounts according to what PUBLISHERS chose to display, not
what Google decided would be best. Our
Google Print Opens Widely To Publishers article from that time explains more
The MediaPost article I mentioned above talks about Google Print having a
"library project" and a "publisher project," with the latter being most
Google is said to be working in two capacities: The "library" project and
the "publisher" project. The publisher project is the most controversial, as
Google aims to work with publishers to make copyrighted books searchable. The
Authors Guild and five major publishers are suing to prevent Google from
scanning books without explicit permission.
The opposite is true. It is the Google Library project that is controversial.
The Google Print Program for
Publishers project isn’t part of Google Library. It’s the preexisting
program that allows publishers who wish (and plenty do) to make their content
available through Google Print and viewable to the degree they want to show.
There’s nothing controversial about that program in terms of copyright issues,
unless you find some authors who may have concerns that their publishers might
benefit more than they do. Publishers who want to participate can and do.
Publishers who don’t want to participate stay out of the program.
Google Library is what I’ll use as a shorthand description of Google Print
Library Program, Google’s library digitization project. It probably would help
matters greatly if Google gave that program a name that is distinct from Google
Print, as I’ll explain further below.
Google Library launched in December 2004, with the goal of taking books (both
in and out of copyright) in public libraries and scanning them to make them
Partners with Oxford, Harvard & Others to Digitize Libraries article from
that time explains more about the program.
One of the chief goals of Google Library was to feed new content into Google
Print. But unlike with Google Print’s publisher program, Google Library gathered
content up without publisher permission.
It didn’t take long for publishers to object to the activity.
Questions On Google Digitization Project is a post from us in March 2005
Some Publishers Not Happy With Google’s Library Digitization Program
followed in May.
Publishers’ Group Asks Google To Halt Scanning For 6 Months from June covers
more pressure. Eventually, we got to a lawsuit in September (Google’s
Library Scanning Project Heads to Court) and a further one last month (Association
of American Publishers Sues Google over Library Digitization Plan).
What’s lost in all these objections is that Google Library is NOT reprinting
books online. Back to that confusing MediaPost article:
Cynics speculate all books will be made available via search. The company
has not said how it will address copyright laws.
So, dear readers, how do you feel about this? As a writer and a consumer, I
am torn. When I’ve got my writing hat on, I’d say this is wrong. There must be
protection in regard to copyrighted materials.
Google has said how it will protect copyright laws, that being that it will
not and does not reprint books that are in copyright without explicit publisher
permission via the Google Print publisher’s program.
Google Library simply makes the content of a book searchable. You can go to
the Google Print site, maybe find a matching book scanned through Google
Library, but you won’t see anything from that book unless the book publisher has
given explicit permission for this. The only exception to this is if the book is
out of copyright.
Indexing Versus Caching & How Google Print Doesn’t Reprint post explains
this in more depth. Google Library is the scanning process for SOME of the
content in Google Print, but that scanning is NOT the same as printing material.
Google Library is effectively making a card catalog of books.
me using the card catalog analogy as too archaic, but too bad — I think that
still resonates with many people. Card catalog, "online public access catalog,"
whatever you want to call them — it’s whatever you use to find a book in a
Now think about the last time you went into a library and sat down at a
search terminal to find a book. When you got a match, did you then click and
read the book on the computer screen? No, in all likelihood you did not.
Instead, you were given the location of the book in the stacks, and you walked
over to pull it off the shelf.
Google Library is helping Google create that type of searchable index of
books, that feeds into Google Print — but Google Print does not let you then
pull the book off the virtual shelf and read it online unless a publisher has
explicitly given permission.
Whether the scanning itself to build a search index is still a copyright
infringement remains to be seen. If so, my
Why Don’t Book
Publishers Object To Web Indexing?,
Print Copyright Infringement; Search Engines Already Infringe and
Legal Experts Say
Google Library Digitization Project Likely OK; Will It Revolve Around Snippets?
posts explain why scanning of web pages has gone on for over a decade without
legal repercussions, and how publisher groups involved in the Google Print
lawsuit themselves sing a different tune when it comes to web indexing, though
the principle at stake is the same.
Back to Google Print, the most
has been that it is making public domain works gained through Google Library
available online via Google Print. Unlike what the MediaPost article suggests,
however, these are not the only works you can get. As I’ve explained, works that
are still in copyright works may also be read online, but this is with publisher
And finally, back to that Google Print versus Google Library confusion. It is
difficult for anyone to understand the differences between the publisher
program, the library scanning program and what both allow and do. It would help
if Google gave the library program — which at the moment seems to be called the
Google Print Library Project — a better name.
For example, take the
Why we believe in Google Print post over at Google from last month, where
We’ve been asked recently why we’re so determined to pursue Google Print,
even though it has drawn industry opposition in the form of two lawsuits, the
most recent coming today from several members of the
American Association of Publishers
Google’s not being sued over Google Print. It’s being sued over Google
Library. But the failure to distinguish the two things is making ALL of Google
Print seem like it’s under fire. Google Print has much content that publishers
are voluntarily providing. It’s the Google Library that’s the problem right now
for Google, so give that a name separate from Google Print and perhaps some of
the confusion between the two will go away and benefit discussion about the real
issues, rather than what often seem to be mistaken assumptions.
Want to know more? If you’re a Search Engine Watch
Google: Print & Library section of Search Engine Watch has a rundown on many
more past posts with history. Plus, you help support Search Engine Watch and the
tired fingers of me, Gary and Chris here at the site.
Want to comment or discuss? Visit our
Google Sued Over Google Print Library Scanning in the Search Engine Watch
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