Is Google Stealing the Written Word?
Google, if it has its way, will soon make most of the world’s literature available to you, free, at least at first.
Google is amassing the world’s largest library by scanning entire university and other libraries into a huge database. If you research esoteric subjects, you have likely already found pages or entire books available from Google.
Is this bad, or is this good?
Google has been sued by a number of organizations, most of them joining the Open Book Alliance HERE. Essentially, Google is writing its own copyright laws, even setting up the Book Rights Registry, its own copyright and compensation system so authors are fairly compensated.
Not surprisingly, many people object to this taking by Google, claiming, among other things, that in a short time Google will essentially be the only outlet for some of this material.
Other people find advantage in this. They point out that Google will make every book and journal available in every place on earth, meaning it will no longer be possible for a government to ban books. Further, it is now possible to compile all the world’s literary works in one place, who should do it? Some suggest the UN; others point out that no governmental entity should be trusted with so precious a resource.
It isn’t a matter of protecting paper books, though some see it that way. The written word is already leaving paper for the electron just as it once left stone and wood for paper. The digital world is simply a continuation of that, and some books are now coming out first for digital readers like Kindle, a device from Amazon.com. Currently, such readers are only black and white, and they are often more clumsy to use than a paper back. However, color is on the way (the readers are not back-lighted, as computer screens are) and one can carry a library in one Kindle.
The argument is more over who owns the content, the writers and publishers, or Google. The $125 million settlement Google recently made in a New York court is probably not the last of it, but in the end the pressures of culture and market mean that Google will be allowed to accomplish its project to digitalize the written word. Perhaps the only question to be resolved is, will it be the sole possessor of the word.