News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Publishers, authors, Google can cooperate, make money

For people eager to read and learn, Google's Book Search program offers intriguing opportunities.

Book Search is already working on the Internet. You can enter a key word or two and locate books that contain these words. It's similar to the process by which Google and other search engines return thousands to millions of results when searching World Wide Web sites.

Google wants to expand Book Search by digitizing entire copyrighted works from three university libraries — a prospect that troubles publishers and authors, who worry about their intellectual property rights.

Nick Taylor, president of the Authors Guild, said the issue is "the appropriation of material that they (Google) don't own for a purpose that is, however altruistic and lofty and wonderful, nevertheless a commercial enterprise."

Although many of its services are free to the public, Google is indeed a commercial enterprise. It expects advertising and other revenues of $5 billion this year.

Book Search will undoubtedly bringing Google additional profits, and content creators' rights must be protected by allowing them to either opt out or share in the chance to make money.

The latter strategy, we think, is in the public interest because it makes literature easier to find and more readily available to people who may be far from bookstores and libraries.

Google doesn't want to make entire copyrighted texts available free. It will offer only three to five lines, limited by the "fair use" provision of copyright law. Readers who want to see more will have to find the book in a library or bookstore, which offers publishers at least the opportunity for a sale.

Because Google will have the texts in digital format, it will be possible to let readers download and pay for whole books. When that happens, publishers and authors should receive the bulk of the revenue as payback for allowing Google to use their work.

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