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Google The Courts Books

Google Books Wins Again (documentcloud.org) 120

cpt kangarooski writes: After Google won a lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild alleging that Google's project to scan and provide a searchable index of books was copyright infringement, Google has now won the inevitable appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The court found that Google is engaging in fair use, and reminds all that "[t]he ultimate goal of copyright is to expand public knowledge and understanding." The ruling (PDF) adds, "while authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public."
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Google Books Wins Again

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  • I got a laugh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by The Real Dr John ( 716876 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @02:38PM (#50745659) Homepage

    from the humorous comment about how "[t]he ultimate goal of copyright is to expand public knowledge and understanding". They are such kidders.

    • by MouseR ( 3264 )

      Yeah that's retarded.

      Does this mean MusicMatch and other lyrics Apps no longer need to pay royalties, since they "expand the public knowledge and understanding" of mumbly singers?

      • Re:I got a laugh (Score:5, Informative)

        by ArmoredDragon ( 3450605 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @02:53PM (#50745773)

        No, because the latest hip-hop album about "pimpin hoes" and "bein a gangsta" doesn't do that in any appreciable way. However books, particularly ones relating to science and technology, do have that effect. And Google isn't just giving the books away to the public, rather they're offering snippets for the purpose of reference, constituting fair use, whereas MusicMatch gives you the whole song.

        • No, because the latest hip-hop album about "pimpin hoes" and "bein a gangsta" doesn't do that in any appreciable way.

          In your opinion. However, you are stating a subjective opinion. What is art and literature to some in not to others, and the other way around.

          • That's true if you're doing some kind of liberal arts program, like studying the development of Modern Ebonics, but beyond that its practical use is somewhat limited.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cjb658 ( 1235986 )

      That's what it was originally intended to do, but now we extend copyrights well beyond the author's death and allow companies to claim copyright on things like the Happy Birthday song. It's become a joke.

      • Re:I got a laugh (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:30PM (#50746053)

        Happy birthday was just found (by a court) the other day to be in the public domain. Just saying.

        • No it wasn't. You need to read the story again.

          • GP is right, although the ruling was not definitive. What the court said was that the evidence of an existing copyright was invalid. Theoretically, someone could come up with a valid claim, but I really, really don't expect it.

            • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

              Which essentially says for a 100+ year old song it is in the public domain. Since there is evidence of the lyrics dating back to the late 1800s, and there are published lyric/melody records no later than 1911, it's pretty much a done deal. Whether they can claim a set of performed arrangements as being under copyright is immaterial. IANACL.

              That there's still an argument over a possible existing copyright of a melody and lyrics that were both published prior to 1880, and quite likely were themselves derivat

  • by joelsherrill ( 132624 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @02:38PM (#50745663) Homepage

    The devil must be in the details.

  • Wow.. right! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @02:41PM (#50745693) Homepage Journal

    "[t]he ultimate goal of copyright is to expand public knowledge and understanding."

    Not in Soviet, I mean Corporate America. In Corporate America, copyright own you!

    Yes, this is what the true goal of copyright is, and kudos for actually understanding the real purpose. Millions of teachers in millions of college classrooms today will be teaching that copyright is for making money and nothing more.

  • "Happy Birthday to You" is still in contention as copyright material. It's ridiculous.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @02:48PM (#50745743)

    >> while authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public

    In whose lifetime?

    • Re:Wot (Score:5, Informative)

      by MickyTheIdiot ( 1032226 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:01PM (#50745845) Homepage Journal

      Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, empowers the United States Congress:

              To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

      The first part of the copyright clause is about "progress of science and the useful arts," not making Houghton Mifflin or Steven King rich.

      You notice the word "limited" has pretty much been ignored, too.

      To answer your question, in the Framers of the Constitution's lifetimes.

      • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

        You notice the word "limited" has pretty much been ignored, too.

        It hasn't been ignored, because they don't have perpetual copyright. Even a period of 500 years is still a "limited" time, as it is confined to a specific limit. Think of it more as definite rather than indefinite. The problem is that we have de facto indefinite copyright because that limit keeps getting extended whenever it gets close at the behest of certain parties(a big player of which also happens to dabble in the amusement park industry)

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          No, the Supreme Court decision that directly involved the definition of 'limited' expressly distinguished between 'limited' and 'definite'. Forever minus a day is 'limited', but not definite. However, in common parlance, there is nothing 'limited' about something that lasts from before you are born to well after you die, and that's where we are with copyright at this point. (Which is also *part* of why there is so little respect for copyright among the general population. [1])

          [1] Lord Macaulay's speech o

          • the Supreme Court decision that directly involved the definition of 'limited' expressly distinguished between 'limited' and 'definite'.

            Cute. This is what happens when let lawyers write your laws, and don't make them define their terms. By any reasonable interpretation, "limited" and "definite" are in fact synonyms. The both mean "having a boundary". So, yes, "author's lifetime plus five hundred years" is technically both limited and definite.

            But they knew how to count higher than a hundred even back in the 18th century, so there would have been no reason to put the word "limited" in there unless it was meant to prevent unreasonably lon

      • You notice the word "limited" has pretty much been ignored, too.

        The founders were not micro-managers.

        The limits of copyright were meant to be defined by legislation.

        The average length of a state constitution is 26,000 words (compared to about 8,700 words for the U.S. constitution). The longest state governing document is that of Alabama, which has over 172,000 words. That document is also the most amended state constitution in the Union, with over 770 amendments. The average state constitution has been amended about 115 times. The oldest state constitution still in effect is that of Massachusetts, which took effect in 1780. The newest is the Georgia Constitution, which was ratified in 1983.

        Georgia has had nine constitutions. Massachusetts one.

        State constitution [ballotpedia.org]

        The success of the framers of the U.S. Constitution in writing a document geared to serving the varied and changing needs of Americans has been complemented by an ability on the part of successive Congresses and courts to readapt it to these changing demands. The Constitution's 27 amendments, added over a period of 200 years, have in most cases plugged minor loopholes rather than changed the focus or the general structure of the document. As Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, ''Our Constitution is so simple and practical that it is possible always to meet extraordinary needs by changes in emphasis and arrangement without loss of essential form. That is why our constitutional system has proved itself the most superbly enduring political mechanism the modern world has produced.'' Constitution of the United States [scholastic.com]

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        I think it is safe to say that the interpretation of the Constitution that is in effect now is well beyond what could be imagined in 1789. It's clear that they meant for it to be adaptable, but I suspect that many of the framers would have had a large issue with the way certain clauses like the Interstate Commerce clause have been used.

        It is an open question whether it is better to have used those loopholes or not. Clearly, this world does not resemble that of the 13 colonies.

        And so, in light of the inter

      • not making Houghton Mifflin or Steven King rich.

        Stephen King would make out just fine under a shorted copyright. Love him or hate him, that guy works for his living. He's the exact opposite of someone writing a single book then sitting back and waiting for their ship to come in.

    • by taustin ( 171655 )

      That should be "in whose lifetime plus 75 years."

  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @02:53PM (#50745783)

    Won't 'fair use' vanish after Obamatrade is signed?

  • by wherrera ( 235520 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:03PM (#50745857) Journal

    This is why the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement should never be ratified.

    • Do any non politicians even know what the TPP says?

      • Do any politicians even know what the TPP says?

        • by vlad30 ( 44644 )

          Do any politicians even know what the TPP says?

          Translated and summarised

          Bend over and take it like a prison bitch unless your really rich in which case you get your choice of prison bitch

        • They have to pass it to see what's in it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        "Do any non politicians even know what the TPP says?"

        They know what it is for

        First, science on reasoning... our brain is really bad at reasoning and reality generally:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYmi0DLzBdQ [youtube.com]

        They are getting concerned, that's why the NSA and the TPP are trying to lock down everything, they are trying to strip us of our rights and control us and the information channels we communicate on because they are at their weakest.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4usbR_kKCDs [youtube.com]

        They are getting rid of st

    • I don't believe they're trying to ratify it, which would take 2/3 of the Senate. I think the idea is to essentially pass it as a law, which is slightly less bad, as Congress could change it without the need for diplomacy.

  • That tends to buy more books because of Google books? I can honestly say that because of Google books, I can find better what I'm looking for.

    Sadly, I'm far more freaked about how dependent I've become on Google for DNS, maps, books, translate, etc... than I ever was on Microsoft. I sometimes find myself trying intentionally to use Microsoft just to cut the cord.
  • Cool. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Now do something about that "Life plus 70 years" copyright term.

    • It would make more sense to let the copyright die with the original author... but in that case, I'd have a powerful incentive to kill my favorite writer so that I can get his books for free, wouldn't I?
      • It would make more sense to let the copyright die with the original author... but in that case, I'd have a powerful incentive to kill my favorite writer so that I can get his books for free, wouldn't I?

        I see where you're coming from, but wouldn't it simply be better to violate copyright instead of killing them, so they can continue writing?

      • by suutar ( 1860506 )

        depends if you want more of them.

      • Also, a young writer would have a strong financial incentive to produce, while someone near death would have almost none. The old guy would probably be interested in the benefit to his heirs, but there wouldn't be time enough under copyright to get much.

        I really like the old idea of a fourteen-year copyright, renewable once. That wasn't too long, and meant you could look at the copyright page and know a book was public domain. Moreover, nobody's going to do some work now for the possible profit after

    • by gnupun ( 752725 )

      Now do something about that "Life plus 70 years" copyright term.

      I have a solution for you. Simply visit a bookstore and pay them less than $50 for the book you want. No need to wait for life+70 years. Oh wait, you want knowledge/entertainment without paying a cent... never mind then.

    • by J053 ( 673094 )

      Problem is, the Berne Convention sets copyright terms at life + 50 years - with member nations having the right to increase those terms. So, life+50 is about the minimum we're ever going to see, unless we want to throw out the Berne Convention. If we do that, of course, no other nation is obligated to recognize US copyrights.

      The Berne Convention also says copyright is vested upon creation of the work, with no registration required.

      • The US didn't join Berne until 1989, though, so obviously it isn't a big problem. The classic workaround is for the work to be simultaneously published in a Berne country (usually it was Canada) and then you still get other Berne countries protecting it.

        Of course, it'd be better for everyone to throw out Berne. There shouldn't be copyright treaties; each country should do what's best, but unilaterally offer national treatment to foreign authors (i.e. treat a foreign work like a domestic one) and try to inf

  • On the one hand, I loathe the monster that copyright law has become, and I think that a searchable database of fulltext library books is a definite positive for society, contributing strongly to the original stated purpose of copyright, which is to advance and safeguard the people's collective knowledge.

    On the other hand, I really don't think this qualifies as fair use. It would be fine if the Library of Congress was doing the scanning, and retaining the copies. But Google is a company, not a government e

    • It is legal, and has been legal, but it depends greatly on the details, such as for what purpose you're copying. If you're copying them just to have your own copy without having had to buy one, it's likely not fair use. If you're providing a service like Google's, you are more likely to be acting legally.

      • If you're copying them just to have your own copy without having had to buy one, it's likely not fair use. If you're providing a service like Google's, you are more likely to be acting legally.

        "More likely", huh? Well, that certainly sounds pretty unambiguous. One thousand lawyer points awarded.

        So okay, if I don't give people access to my stash, it's illegal, but if I make it searchable and provide snippets, it suddenly becomes legal? Great racket they've got going on there.

        • So okay, if I don't give people access to my stash, it's illegal, but if I make it searchable and provide snippets, it suddenly becomes legal? Great racket they've got going on there.

          That's not quite what he said. He said if you were copying them and didn't already own a copy and were copying them to avoid paying for them, then that would be a copyright violation. The unwritten part, was that if you are scanning books that you have purchased (or otherwise legally acquired a copy of), that is legal and has been legal this whole time.

        • "More likely", huh? Well, that certainly sounds pretty unambiguous. One thousand lawyer points awarded.

          Fair use has no bright line rules; it is entirely based on whether the use, given the circumstances, is fair. The best you can hope for from fair use are broad trends which can be used for rough guidance in evaluating new uses.

          Also, thank you for the lawyer points. I will add them to the one's I've been accumulating by selling cookies, and perhaps this year I'll finally get that BMX bike.

          So okay, if I don't give people access to my stash, it's illegal, but if I make it searchable and provide snippets, it suddenly becomes legal?

          Well, let's go through the four factor analysis used to help determine whether or not a use is fair. In doing so, remembe

    • If you can't use it to read the whole book by searching for a page at a time, it's fair use. Unfortunately, I don't the Google implements any absolute limits like that, they just make it extremely awkward and time consuming to use it to read an entire book.
    • Oh, and if it's legal for Google and me to do it, then it's legal for Google and me and another guy to do it, right? And if three parties can do it, four parties can, right? And if four parties can do it, everybody can, right?

      It'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. We should start a betting pool. I personally bet they'll cut us off at, like, seven guys.

      • by suutar ( 1860506 )

        sure. Anyone who wants to set up a public search service is free to scan whatever material they need to populate it. Note that this is not the same as getting to read the whole book yourself; that is not a necessary step in running a search service.

      • How many indexes do you think it is work making?

    • "Wait, is that legal? Has it been legal this whole time?"

      Yes, if you don't end up with more readable whole copies than what you started with.

      Copyright is a restriction on distributing copies, not making them. Fair use is about distributing a piece of a copy, and how big of a piece should be treated differently than the whole.

      So 1) if you bought a book, scanned it, and put the physical book on your shelf while you read the scanned copy, no problem. 2) If you got the book from the library, scanned it into a d

      • 2) If you got the book from the library, scanned it into a database where you can't get the full text back out, and took the book back to the library, no problem. 3) If you got the book from the library, scanned it, took the book back to the library, and then read the scanned copy later, you have distributed more copies than are acquired, so that is a copyright infringement.

        What Google wants to do is 2).

        Okay, but what if I really want to do 3 but claim to want to do 2, and provide a Google-Books-style searchable database as cover? How are you going to make sure I don't read the book later? How are you legally going to refuse to let me do it but still let Google do it?

        "Are you calling me a liar? I'll prove it! Go ahead, ask me anything you want about the Goblet of Fire... No, I don't know anything about that! See?"

      • Copyright is a restriction on distributing copies, not making them.

        Wrong. Copyright restricts both things, and some other things besides. 17 USC 106 lays out the core exclusive rights of copyright. The first is the right to make copies. The third is the right to distribute copies.

        Fair use is about distributing a piece of a copy, and how big of a piece should be treated differently than the whole.

        Wrong again. Fair use is a catch all exception; any sort of otherwise infringing activity may be a fair use, though not every actual such infringement will actually turn out to be a fair use. It applies to both the making and distribution of copies.

        Also, fair use can apply to copies of entire work

  • How come google books wins all the time but apple books lost in court? Anti-apple bias in the judicial system?

    • No, they're just two completely different issues.

      Google Books has been involved in copyright disputes against some authors.

      Apple Books has been involved in antitrust disputes against the federal government.

      The only thing in common are that they both involve lawsuits, and the word 'books.'

      • this is a very good point. everybody was apple with apple books - authors, publishers, readers. it was in everybody's self interest. but the govt felt that there was an area that was not sufficiently regulated (liberal attitude) so they wade in and shut it down.

        • everybody was apple with apple books - authors, publishers, readers. it was in everybody's self interest. but the govt felt that there was an area that was not sufficiently regulated (liberal attitude) so they wade in and shut it down.

          No, you're wrong.

          Apple and the major book publishers were trying to rig the market for ebooks so as to 1) increase profits for publishers, and 2) decrease Apple's competition for tablet-format book-reading hardware (Kindles, iPads, etc.). The way they were trying to accomplish this was by raising prices for buyers of e-books.

          So it's bad for readers in that it costs them more money to buy books, and it's bad for readers because it reduces competition for the reading hardware. It was also, ironically, bad for

          • > The law requires that they not do so, forcing them to compete

            the definition of government is monopoly over force. think about that.

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