Microsoft Associate General Counsel Thomas Rubin took off the gloves at the Association of American Publishers meeting on Tuesday. The target: Google Book Search. The goal: to contrast Google’s approach to copyright issues associated with digitizing books with Microsoft’s more publisher-friendly approach.
Rubin’s comments included the following:
The stated goal of Google’s Book Search project is to make a copy of every book ever published and bring it within Google’s vast database of indexed content. While Google says that it doesn’t currently intend to place ads next to book search results, Google’s broader business model is straightforward—attract as many users as possible to its site by providing what it considers to be "free" content, then monetize that content by selling ads. I think Pat Schroeder put it best when she said Google has "a hell of a business model—they’re going to take everything you create, for free, and sell advertising around it."
To accomplish its book search goals, Google persuaded several libraries to give it unfettered access to their collections, both copyrighted and public domain works. It also entered into agreements with several publishers to acquire rights to certain of their copyrighted books. Despite such deals, in late 2004 Google basically turned its back on its partners. Concocting a novel "fair use" theory, Google bestowed upon itself the unilateral right to make entire copies of copyrighted books not covered by these publisher agreements without first obtaining the copyright holder’s permission.
Google’s chosen path would no doubt allow it to make more books searchable online more quickly and more cheaply than others, and in the short term this will benefit Google and its users. But the question is, at what long-term cost? In my view, Google has chosen the wrong path for the longer term, because it systematically violates copyright and deprives authors and publishers of an important avenue for monetizing their works. In doing so, it undermines critical incentives to create. . . .
Google defends its actions primarily by arguing that its unauthorized copying and future monetization of your books are protected as fair use. . . .
In essence, Google is saying to you and to other copyright owners: "Trust us—you’re protected. We’ll keep the digital copies secure, we’ll only show snippets, we won’t harm you, we’ll promote you." But Google’s track record of protecting copyrights in other parts of its business is weak at best.
Rubin also discussed Microsoft’s Live Search Academic and Live Search Books in some detail.
Here are some of the more interesting articles and postings about the speech:
- "Microsoft Attacks Google Over Book Search"
- "Microsoft Chastises Google on Copyrights"
- "Microsoft’s Accusations Against Google Don’t Impress Copyright Gurus"
- "Microsoft’s Copyright Assault on Google"
- "Working Together"