Google is undertaking a large, long-term project to make the content of hard copy books (remember those?) available via the Internet.
Such a project would unquestionably benefit many in significant ways. Nick Taylor, in a Washington Post editorial, argues they are going about it without due consideration of intellectual property rights.
In response, Authors Guild, of which Taylor is current president, has filed suit against Google.
One side argues the potential benefit to society outweighs the author’s right to compensation for his or her work. The librarian of the University of Michigan, for example, states “We cannot lose sight of the tremendous benefits this project will bring to society.”
Others argue no copyright infringement is taking place.
First, Google does not intend to sell digital copies of the books themselves, selling instead targeted advertising links embedded on the results page. Second, only very small snippets of the books (less then three lines) will be displayed at any one time.
While agreeing about the likely benefit, Taylor argues that “Society has traditionally seen its greatest value in the rights of individuals, and particularly in the dignity of their work and just compensation for it.”