Sunday, December 08, 2013

Judge Denny Chin Was Mistaken About The Fairness Of Scanning

I had planned to blog about something else....  (How Wrong Rand Paul Is In Supporting Internet Anarchy) however, today I did a bit of pirating with the most pure of motives, and I'd like to spread the word.

Judge Denny Chin decided that Google Books and Google Book scanning is Fair Use. Now, there are four well-recognized tests for whether something is Fair Use or not, and the most important one is whether the activity causes financial loss to the copyright owner.

This morning, Google cost the publishers and authors of WORLD CIVILIZATIONS at least $124.00
(assuming I wouldn't rent it from Amazon, or buy a used copy). Actually, to digress, Amazon's price surprises me. MBS which is supposed to be a cost-effective source for students is selling new copies for $262.00.

I should add another disclaimer. Google claims that the pages are displayed on Google Books by permission of the publisher.

Cengage Learning
Pages displayed by permission of Cengage LearningCopyright

I wonder whether the publisher gave permission "willingly", and whether the publisher would have been so willing if they knew how many pages Google displays as "preview".  I certainly was able to use simple search terms to enable me to do the required reading for a student's homework reading for last week, and also for this week, and next week. (Let me repeat, the student in question has a legally purchased copy of the text. I just was curious about the student's allegations about turgid prose. FWIW, and not to add insult to injury, I found the prose absolutely fascinating.)

Was Judge Denny Chin impressed by the fact that Google Books omits pages, such as 178? I wanted to know whether I could find Page 178 by other means, so I tried other search terms on Google Books, and found a portion of page 178, even though that page was not supposed to be shown at all.

I then took the keyword from what was available on 178, and the ISBN of the book, and went to Google to do a search. I will not share either the lucky keyword or the screen capture of the Google search page, but .... it took me to a .pdf  OF THE ENTIRE BOOK.

Which entire book, I was able to download (in the pure and clean-handed spirit of scholarly inquiry) from that Google Search page without any hindrance or warning that what I was doing was in any way evil and immoral.

This situation is wrong. It should not happen. Judge Denny Chin should not have allowed it to happen. I have informed Authors' Guild, and I hope that other students and copyright activists will take expensive books that they have already purchased legally, and test whether they are able to illegally download copies using Google Books and Google Search.... and help to make a bit of a stink about what it happening to copyright, and how unfair "Fair Use" abuse can be.

Rowena Cherry

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