Harold Evans, Ignoramus


Harold Evans, on a book tour to promote his memoir, has been misstating the facts on Google Books:

Google has shown insufficient appreciation of original work. For instance, they thought they could get away with the idea of taking books in copyright and making them available for nothing. It was outrageous, but they didn’t seem to realize how outrageous it was. That’s a lack of sensitivity. You cannot write a deeply researched book and then give it away.

Google has never attempted to make in-copyright books available “for nothing” without the explicit opt-in permission of the copyright owner. If this is the standard of accuracy “one of the most esteemed figures of 20th-century journalism” holds himself to, can someone remind me why we’re in such a panic about the decline of newspapers?


I guess it all depends on how you define “making them available”. Google and the Hathi Trust used illicit copies of my book to preform their searches, and those results were available. Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me


‘Google has never attempted to make in-copyright books available “for nothing” without the explicit opt-in permission of the copyright owner.’

I don’t know what Evans had in mind with his remark. However, I note the following:

In the case of most traditionally published commercial books, the copyright owner is the author. The publisher exploits the book under a licence, which specifies the rights licensed, sets out specific terms for their use, and details the conditions under which the rights will revert.

Under the so-called ‘Partner Program’ Google has made some pretty large chunks of many in-copyright books available as ‘previews’.

I know, from some of the emails I have been receiving, that some publishers have been submitting books to the Partner Program without informing their authors. Some of these authors are, understandably, confused about what is going on, and think that Google is displaying very large chunks of their books without permission from anyone.

Furthermore, it is becoming clear that some publishers are putting books in the Partner Program in cases where they do not have a licence for the relevant rights, and have not sought permission from the author - the copyright owner.

This article by US poet and author Sarah Ruden is instructive. See also this piece by Angela Hoy of Writers Weekly.

Ruden found 100% of one of her (in-print) books on Google Books at one point.

Post a comment



You can use HTML style tags or Markdown.


Comment Preview: