GBS: Around the Web

Pamela Samuelson doesn’t like the amended settlement:

What stands out after my initial review of GBS 2.0 is that changes were overwhelmingly made to placate the governments of France and Germany, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Google is apparently hoping that if it can get these governments off its back, GBS 2.0 will be approved. Hundreds of authors, publishers and other interested parties raised dozens of objections to GBS 1.0, but their concerns were almost completely ignored. GBS 2.0, for example, does not address issues raised by academic authors about the risks of price gouging, lack of user privacy protections and restrictions on various uses that can be made of GBS books, even though most of the books in the GBS corpus are academic-authored books.

Kenneth Crews has some thoughts on the implications for libraries:

GBS 2.0 is a double whammy for libraries. First, the ISD’s scope is slashed. No longer “worldwide,” the settlement is now only about books registered with the U.S. Copyright Office (which will be dominantly U.S. books), and books originating from the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. Gone are all other books from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and other regions. Because the settlement is now tightly limited, so will be the ISD. The big and (probably) expensive database is no longer so exciting. Many of the books under GSB 2.0 are likely already available to many libraries.

The second whammy is legal. Because the settlement does not cover all books, liabilities surrounding some large portion of the books already shipped by libraries and scanned by Google are not released. Copyright owners from France, Argentina, New Zealand, and China retain the right to commence yet another lawsuit against Google, conceivably drawing libraries into the melee. Why the libraries? Rightsholders could claim that libraries are “contributory infringers” by making the books available. Moreover, many libraries and Hathi Trust, continue to hold book scans received from Google that are now outside the settlement.

A little birdie told me that Dan Clancy and Gary Reback would be on the McNeill-less NewsHour on Monday. The little birdie was wrong:

Reback was set to go on NewsHour to debate Google Books with the engineer that does most of the talking for Google - Dan Clancy. Both are quite able to defend their positions intelligently. Or at least, they would have. Clancy never showed up, leaving Reback at the studio, alone.

Why did Google back out? According to Reback, Google told the show that they didn’t want to put an engineer against a lawyer on TV: “They said I was a lawyer but Clancy was not, so the debate would be unfair.” Reback says that’s ridiculous. “Clancy goes around peddling his story and appearing on panels with lawyers all the time,” he said (which is true). Reback also notes that “Google has hundreds of lawyers, dozens of whom have worked on this. Surely, they could find a lawyer to debate if they were afraid to put Clancy up” (which is also true).

For their part, Google says they aren’t interested in debating the legal niceties of Google Books on broadcast television. Gabriel Stricker, head of search communications at Google, says that they were told Harvard profession Robert Darnton would be their opponent on the debate (his thoughts on Google Books are here, and wow he desperately needs an editor), and that Reback was added at the last minute. When they found out about the change, Stricker says, it was too late to find an appropriate Google attorney as a replacement.

Stricker says Google wants to have a “philosophical and ideological conversation about Google Books” in front of a mainstream TV audience, not a legal debate. And he adds “the fact that Gary finds it necessary to try to create conflict surrounding the existence of the conversation is exactly why we would prefer not to have a conversation with him.”

Fred von Lohmann of the EFF has been blogging about the amended settlement. After short posts on the lack of privacy changes and the contours of the debate, he has a longer discussion of the settlement’s access implications:

Taken together, these features mean that the Google Books project could potentially provide Americans (and only Americans, as the settlement only authorizes Google to offer Display Uses of in-copyright books to U.S. Internet users) with unprecedented instant access to a large collection of books that previously were available only in research university libraries. In particular, like the Internet before it, Google Books could make specialized resources available to people who otherwise might never be able to access them (see, e.g., Google’s agreements to digitize U. of Wisconsin’s Native American collection and U. of Texas’ Benson Latin American collection). …

First, under the settlement copyright owners can pull their books (see Section 3.5, “Right to Remove or Exclude”) out of all the products and services envisioned by the settlement, including full-text search and limited “snippet view” access. This is essentially the “take the money and run” option—the copyright owner collects a per-book payment from Google for books already scanned, but then the public gets no online access to these books unless and until the copyright owners negotiate new deals with Google or other online providers. This effectively gives copyright owners a unilateral right to trump fair use, essentially “unpublishing” their books online. Some observers expect that most major publishers will opt to “take the money and run” for both their in-print and out-of-print titles, leaving gaping holes on the virtual shelves of Google Books. If this takes place, then the settlement would only foster access to orphan and unclaimed works. Still good, but far short of full access to every book in the University of Michigan library.

Once again Google earns an F for crisis management by ducking out of a chance to explain and defend the book scanning project on prime time national TV.They could have put up Google Board of Directors star, Al Gore- what chance would lawyer Reback have against a politician, Nobel laureate media superstar like him? Instead, every time Google lets Brin, Page or Schmidt try to explain or defend the GBS, they come off as evasive and superficial, and not worthy of public trust as custodian of the world’s accumulated stores of knowledge and information. Whether or not Judge Chin ok’s the GBS, Google still has to win that trust, and tired platitudes like “Do no evil,” clearly do not even begin to meet that challange.