From the President of the Authors Guild via The Wall Street Journal:
Last week publishers, copyright experts and other supporters filed amicus briefs petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the copyright-infringement case against Google brought by the Authors Guild. The court’s decision will determine how and whether the rights and livelihood of writers are protected in the future.
If you type, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” into Google’s search box, the text and author will be identified for you in a matter of seconds. This is not because Google has ranks of English majors waiting at the ready, but because, over a decade ago, Google made an agreement with a number of great libraries to make digital copies of every book they owned.
In 2004 Google sent its moving vans to the libraries and carted off some 20 million books. It copied them all, including books in copyright and books not covered by copyright. It asked no authors or publishers for permission, and it offered no compensation for their use—although in compensation to the libraries Google gave them digital copies of the scanned books.
The Authors Guild challenged what Google was doing in Authors Guild v. Google, the copyright-infringement case first brought in 2005 and recently decided on appeal to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. In October the court ruled that Google was protected by the doctrine of fair use when it copied the books—partly because it only made limited samples from copyright material available to the public, and partly because the court found that making the books available to an electronic search was “transformative.”
. . . .
It’s useful here to consider that Google reported revenue of nearly $75 billion in 2015. Last year, an Authors Guild survey on writers’ annual incomes since 2009 showed a 67% decline for authors with 15 or more years of experience. Most respondents, if they were to live only on their writing income, would be below the poverty line.
Accomplished writers are important to us. They provide the intellectual core of our culture, and as a society we need their work, their thoughts and their voices. We can’t allow their work to be taken without compensation by technology giants merely because these giants have the capability to do so.
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Abel and others for the tip.
Since most publishing contracts continue for the life of the copyright, PG wonders if the real beneficiaries of any Authors Guild victory over Google wouldn’t be the publishers, who receive the large majority of any revenue a book generates.
Perhaps the Wall Street Journal made a typo and the author of this piece was president of the Publishers Guild instead of the Authors Guild. An op-ed from the viewpoint of authors might be titled, How Big Publishing Stole the Work of Millions of Authors.