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Once Again, US DoJ Opposes Google Book Search 218

Posted by kdawson
from the no-so-fast-there-cappy dept.
angry tapir and several other readers passed along the news that the US Department of Justice has come out against the revised agreement to settle copyright lawsuits brought against Google by authors and publishers. This is a major blow to Google's efforts to build a massive digital-books marketplace and library. From the DoJ filing (PDF): "...the [Amended Settlement Agreement] suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the Court in this litigation. As a consequence, the ASA purports to grant legal rights that are difficult to square with the core principle of the Copyright Act that copyright owners generally control whether and how to exploit their works during the term of copyright. Those rights, in turn, confer significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages on a single entity — Google."
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Once Again, US DoJ Opposes Google Book Search

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  • Opposes? (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:08AM (#31033990) Journal
    I read the official press release this morning [justice.gov] and it sounded somewhat optimistic:

    The department continues to believe that a properly structured settlement agreement in this case offers the potential for important societal benefits. The department stated that it is committed to continuing to work with the parties and other stakeholders to help develop solutions through which copyright holders could allow for digital use of their works by Google and others, whether through legislative or market-based activities.

    Seemed to me they weren't happy with Google 'ownership' of orphaned works and the fact that it's "opt out" not "opt in" for authors [pcpro.co.uk]. I guess you could see that as opposition but basically the amended contract failed to satisfy them. That's why they're having a hearing on Feb. 18, 2010.

    A deal this big is bound to have lengthy negotiations and investigations as it's truly game changing for everyone involved and the world at large.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Aladrin (926209)

      I agree with Google's aim: Prevent orphaned works from disappearing.

      I disagree with the way they are trying to do it because it tramples all over the law to do so, -and- guarantees a monopoly while it's doing it. I think the DOJ is saying the same.

      • by tyrione (134248)

        I agree with Google's aim: Prevent orphaned works from disappearing.

        I disagree with the way they are trying to do it because it tramples all over the law to do so, -and- guarantees a monopoly while it's doing it. I think the DOJ is saying the same.

        Leave that up to the US Copyright Office to manage, not a corporation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If an author could opt-in for orphaned works, it would not be an orphaned work. I fail to see how requiring orphaned works to sit in the dark until copyright expires benefits anybody. The problem people have with this is that Google is attempting to use what is essentially an unused, untapped resource.

      • Re:Opposes? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jecblackpepper (1160029) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:34PM (#31035588) Homepage

        If your problem is orphaned works then there are two fair solutions I can see to fix the problems:

        • Shorten copyright terms, orphaned works are only a problem when copyright is significantly longer than the time a work a is in print for.
        • Have a public body rule on orphaned works and if found to be be truly orphaned, then put them in the public domain for anyone to use.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The problem people have with this is that Google is attempting to exclusively use what is essentially an unused, untapped common resource.

        There, fixed that for you.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:14AM (#31034042)

    Opt out is evil. It's evil when spammers do it and it's evil when google does it.

    If I create a work and hold the copyright on that work, google has no right to provide copies of that work without my permission, and they cannot say, "you can opt out!". That's backwards according to long established law.

    This applies to much of what google does - online books, news stories copied from the organizations which create them, and providing cached versions of web pages.

    Copyright law does not magically no longer matter if you add "on the internet" to it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Compholio (770966)

      If I create a work and hold the copyright on that work, google has no right to provide copies of that work without my permission, and they cannot say, "you can opt out!". That's backwards according to long established law.

      How would you feel if a library had to get permission from copyright holders before offering books? It seems to me that there are some circumstances where an opt-out makes more sense than an opt-in.

    • by ajs (35943)

      Opt out is evil. It's evil when spammers do it and it's evil when google does it

      If spammers provided a single opt-out for all spam ever that they actually obeyed, no one would be unhappy.

      The reason opting out isn't workable is that you'd have to opt out of every spammers efforts and almost no spammers actually obey opt-out requests (some actually do, believe it or not, because they're not in the business of spamming, but rather of maintaining mailing lists of likely suckers, the value of which they increase by removing people who request it).

      The only concern I'd have, here is if Google

    • Copyright law is ALWAYS opt out. Think... Youtube for godssake. (Being that Youtube is not a mailman, they don't have common-carrier laws for it) There is copyrighted stuff put up and then taken down at request, ie opt out. It is your job to protect your own copyright. And Google provides an opt out where not only will they try and hunt you down to start with, if they are unable to find you but you find them. You can opt out and they'll send you like 60$+ for your trouble. Sucky and all but you won't get mu
    • by jambarama (784670)

      If I create a work and hold the copyright on that work, google has no right to provide copies of that work without my permission, and they cannot say, "you can opt out!". That's backwards according to long established law.

      Google isn't just copying books and distributing them wholesale. Without publisher consent, they'll only show very brief snippets, well within fair use. Publishers can, and have, authorized google to show a few pages or show the entire book, but default is just a few lines. You, holding a copyright, can't veto a particular fair use just because it is on the internet. Whether the initial copy google makes to generate the snippets is fair use or not, that's a different and much closer question. That's

  • Larry and Sergei : Guess the commander in chief's not getting any rides on Larry and Sergei's private party jet any time soon!
    Obama : My current private jet is actually much better.
    Larry and Sergei : We can play Call of Duty on a giant screen.
    Obama : I play Afghanistan and Iraq on mine

  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by metamatic (202216) on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:15AM (#31034076) Homepage Journal

    The right solution is to fix the brokenness of copyright law, not to write in a special exemption for a particular company.

    For starters, we should have an orphan works provision, and the duration of copyright should be cut back down to reasonable levels.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      IMHO the entire concept of an 'orphaned work' is a fiction designed to push this agenda - a copyright holder shouldn't have to make themselves known to anyone, regardless of the reason.

      I agree that shorter copyright durations should be granted, with a clearer expiration line for works, but the entire line of reasoning regarding 'orphaned works' should not be one enshrined in law anywhere.
      • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

        by N0Man74 (1620447) on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:45AM (#31034338)

        You know, an 'Orphaned Work' isn't just works where the copyright holder doesn't make themselves known. There are examples of where an organization has spent a great deal of time and effort to just follow the trail of ownership of copyright where the ownership has changed hands several times, and apparently has been forgotten even by the other owner. Many times even with great effort to establish the owner, it simply can't be found.

        • Re:Good (Score:4, Informative)

          by metamatic (202216) on Friday February 05, 2010 @02:40PM (#31037404) Homepage Journal

          And then there are the situations where the copyright owner is known, but they have no interest in continuing to make the work available because there's insufficient profit in it.

          For example, the movies "Spartacus" and "Lawrence of Arabia" were almost lost because the copyright owners decided they weren't worth the expense of maintaining, so they didn't bother to keep copies [in70mm.com]. And those were both Oscar-winning movies released only 50 years ago. If Columbia and Universal had refused to fund the belated restoration efforts, both movies would have been irretrievable by the time the copyright ran out.

      • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

        by yar (170650) on Friday February 05, 2010 @11:19AM (#31034704)

        Orphaned works are most certainly not a fiction. As someone who regularly works with libraries, archives, & museums, I can say with some certainty that orphan works are huge problems for such entities, and copyright law as it's currently instantiated ensures that these works may disappear forever. Orphaned works are the majority of works in existence.

        See the Copyright Office comments (and the US Copyright Office favors strong copyright laws)
        http://www.copyright.gov/orphan/
        See the Association of Research Libraries comments to the Copyright Office
        http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/lcacomment0305.pdf
        See the Society of American Archivists Best Practices
        http://www.archivists.org/standards/OWBP-V4.pdf
        See some of Peter Hirtle's comments.
        http://blog.librarylaw.com/librarylaw/2009/09/orphan-works-and-the-google-book-settlement.html ...and so on.

        Orphaned works is a huge issue, and will become more of an issue as we attempt to work with and preserve digital works.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cpt kangarooski (3773)

        a copyright holder shouldn't have to make themselves known to anyone, regardless of the reason.

        Then why should I support laws that grant them a copyright at all, permit a copyright to continue existing, or allow the copyright holder to enjoy legal remedies such as money damages and injunctions?

        Copyright is meant to serve the public interest, by incentivizing the creation and publication of works that otherwise would not be created and published, while encumbering the public with minimal (preferably no) rest

    • by Bob9113 (14996)

      not to write in a special exemption for a particular company. ... For starters, we should have an orphan works provision,

      Calling the Slashdot research department:

      Does anyone have a link to an article with the quotes from some Google exec saying that the reason this right should be conferred on Google, and not create a general orphan works provision, was because Google invested in the legal muscle to make the deal happen?

      I just poked around for it, but could not find it. I remember being moderately swayed at

      • by Zerth (26112)

        Google wants a compulsory license, like they have in Canada for orphan works, but they can't do that in the court system, the decision only applies to them. To get the same rights for everyone, the government has to actually make a law.

        On the other hand, they do want everybody to have to do the scanning work for themselves instead of sharing, so they are a little naughty.

    • Samuel Clemens (Score:2, Interesting)

      by quotes (1738456)
      I am interested particularly and especially in the part of the bill which concerns my trade. I like that extension of copyright life to the author's life and fifty years afterward. I think that would satisfy any reasonable author, because it would take care of his children. Let the grand-children take care of themselves. That would take care of my daughters, and after that I am not particular. I shall then have long been out of this struggle, independent of it, indifferent to it. It isn't objectionable to
      • Pretty funny that the only reason why you could post that here, and the only reason I was able to read it, and check what was the context by searching in Google, is because, well, the copyright on it expired?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by icebraining (1313345)

        But you forget the next paragraph:

        What is the excuse? It is that the author who produced that book has had the profit of it long enough, and therefore the Government takes a profit which does not belong to it and generously gives it to the 88,000,000 of people. But it doesn't do anything of the kind. It merely takes the author's property, takes his children's bread, and gives the publisher double profit. He goes on publishing the book and as many of his confederates as choose to go into the conspiracy do so

  • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:23AM (#31034144) Homepage

    I agree with the government's position on this one. What started out as a lawsuit over the scanning of books (to make them searchable, which I consider fair use) has now become an attempt by Google to gain rights they wouldn't have enjoyed without a contract with copyright holders. The idea of a class action lawsuit is to compensate plaintiffs for an alleged wrong, not to grant defendants new rights that could otherwise only be obtained through contract or legislation. In my opinion, the Author's Guild has sold out the class and acted against its best interests. Indeed, the proposed settlement affects even those authors who aren't members of the Author's Guild and does so in a way that is not in their best interests.

    If Google wants access to people's copyrighted works beyond what's allowed by the fair use doctrine, let them negotiate with authors or else let them petition the government for sensible laws on orphaned works. The courts are not the way to secure such broad rights as Google has attempted to do through its settlement with the Author's Guild.

    • for the vast majority of author's we're not talking about jk rowling: they're obscure. and their works are, frankly, unknown, out of print, forgotten. such that putting the artificial boundary of negotiating with thousands of random yahoos and working out arcane legal arrangements with all of them is completely unwieldy, unworkable, and monetarily not worth the effort

      instead, dump all their work in one big database for free, and these authors, because of much greater ease in accessing their works, see an IM

      • by nomadic (141991)
        instead, dump all their work in one big database for free, and these authors, because of much greater ease in accessing their works, see an IMPROVEMENT in their accessibility, marketability, and prominence. imagine fucking that

        You're just rehashing the tired (and incorrect) old slashdot meme that somehow increased prominence is automatically economically beneficial (oh, they like when you pirate their software, that means more "marketshare").
        • You do realize that authors make 0$ on orphaned works? If they did it wouldn't be called orphaned. It would be called a book.
      • by Angst Badger (8636) on Friday February 05, 2010 @11:28AM (#31034780)

        copyright law is BLOCKING the long tail and therefore blocking profit making for authors via ancillary means

        So your argument boils down to this: There is money to be made, so fuck the rights of everyone involved and hand that gigantic wad of cash as an exclusive deal to one of the richest corporations in the world?

        Here's one for you: Just because you want something, even if you want it badly, doesn't give you a right to it.

        it gets to a point where copyright law is simply gets in the way of technological, social, and cultural progress

        Bold words coming from a guy who hasn't figured out punctuation or capitalization. How's that cultural progress working for you?

      • by fusiongyro (55524)
        To do this legally, all Google would have to do is make it an opt-in. In a hundred years or so, everything in copyright now should be out of copyright (I agree that there should be a hard time limit to copyright, and 99 years is too long) so everything published to now could be included for that reason. Google could partner up with publishing houses to sweeten the deal; if you got a book deal, it would likely have a clause in there about Google getting to use it. If you didn't like that, you could self-publ
    • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Friday February 05, 2010 @11:30AM (#31034798)

      I agree with the government's position on this one. What started out as a lawsuit over the scanning of books (to make them searchable, which I consider fair use)

      Unfortunately, that you consider it fair use doesn't really matter. Fair use is defined, and it is not defined to include copying an entire work for your own commercial purposes, which is exactly what Google did.

      Google should be sued for a vast sum of money over this, just like you or I did if we copied all the works the RIAA or MPAA get so jumpy about "just to make them searchable".

      You don't get to abuse other people's property rights just because you're Google.

      • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Friday February 05, 2010 @12:01PM (#31035162) Homepage

        Fair use is defined, and it is not defined to include copying an entire work for your own commercial purposes ...

        This is how fair use is defined by copyright law:

        Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. 106 and 17 U.S.C. 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

        1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
        2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
        3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
        4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

        The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

        As you can see, the law leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and nothing in the above text rules out the possibility of a successful fair use defense when books are scanned for the purpose of making them searchable (not to be confused with making it viewable) online.

  • by RandomFactor (22447) on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:29AM (#31034196)

    > copyright owners generally control whether and how to exploit their works during the term of copyright

    Which would be much more reasonable if copyright wasn't permanent (by any reasonable measure) now.

    Copyright has been changed. As such, the rules governing it need to adjust to maintain the benefit of having it for society.

  • Do no evil (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grapeape (137008) <mpope7@kc . r r . c om> on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:34AM (#31034246) Homepage

    Somewhere along the way Google forgot one of its own rules. Their subtle yet ever encroaching methods of "helping" the world seem more of an attempt to ensure that google is firmly entrenched in every aspect of our daily lives. IMHO their approach is just wrong. We have lived for thousands of years without street level photos online of our homes and without navagable photos of the insides of public buildings and retail spaces, do we really need them? Many see them as an invasion of privacy.

    I'm already concerned about google wanting to control the storage and distribution of medical records, financial records and other areas they seem determined to control.

    It took being bitten by the hand that fed them to finally come out againt their own willingness to censor in China, but still show a willingness to cowtow to political and well connected interests.

    Their gmail, adsense, and cookie policies are well lets just say less than privacy friendly.

    As for books and other media, this should be a opt in system rather than an opt out. If spam was opt out many more would be protesting but its violation is the same. Many argue its to protect media that would be lost in the future, but the proper fix for that is to change laws not skirt around them because your some big coporation.

    I just dont see how "do no evil" and a great desire to become big brother can peacefully co-exist.

    • Re:Do no evil (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreakNO@SPAMeircom.net> on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:43AM (#31034322) Homepage Journal

      Somewhere along the way Google forgot one of its own rules.

      Wrong. Google is just abiding by it's Golden Rule:

      Make all of the world's data publicly available and searchable.

      Most people still haven't fully considered the implications of this; or just how single minded Google is going to be about this goal.

    • "We have lived for thousands of years without street level photos online of our homes and without navagable photos of the insides of public buildings and retail spaces, do we really need them? Many see them as an invasion of privacy."
      And clean water and electricity and cars and computers and..... What a blatantly stupid argument!

      "It took being bitten by the hand that fed them to finally come out againt their own willingness to censor in China, but still show a willingness to cowtow to political and well
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      We have lived for thousands of years without street level photos online of our homes and without navagable photos of the insides of public buildings and retail spaces, do we really need them?

      Jesus H. Christ, you sound like my 78 year old dad. We lived thousands of years without computers, telephones, electricity, automobiles, airplanes, and indoor plumbing, do we really need them?

  • Opt-In Copyright? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BlackCreek (1004083) on Friday February 05, 2010 @10:45AM (#31034340)

    Why can't these guys introduce some required opt-in copyright for works older than say 25 years? Make the renewal 20 years long and put a US$5 price on it.

    Lawrence Lessig has been arguing for something like this for years... it would solve the orphaned works problem, and Disney probably wouldn't care, so they actually might let it happen.

  • This the same DoJ (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BitterAndDrunk (799378) on Friday February 05, 2010 @11:18AM (#31034698) Homepage Journal
    That thought a merger between LiveNation and Ticketmaster wouldn't constitute a trust.

    These fuckers are not only corrupt, but shamelessly corrupt.

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