A bit of dialogue from the movie Broadcast News comes to mind. An executive from a TV station looks at the character played by Holly Hunter and says “It must be nice to always believe you know better, to always think you’re the smartest person in the room.” She replies with perfect sincerity: “No. It’s awful.” I had the same exact feeling several months ago when I told you about Google losing the lawsuit to scan in and make books available to anyone no matter if the material was copyrighted or not. I also said that being denied would just make them more determined. Well, damn it, I was right and I don’t relish being so spot on. Dean likes being right. That’s his shtick, not mine.
Rather than continue to go after books in the US–since folks here put up a fight–Google has turned its attention to the UK. US…UK…it still has a U in it, so it’s got to be making them feel like they’re winning half the battle. They are now in the process of scanning in 250,000 novels, pamphlets and periodicals between the years 1700 and 1870. Humanitarian cause? Desire to look like the good guy by assisting in the preservation of works? Or a stepping stone towards an all out assault on published works, copyrighted or not? Considering that Google has partnered with 40 libraries on the same kind of venture, I’m going to go with the third option. It’s getting their foot in the door to further do as they please.
Nobody tells Google “no.” It’s really only a matter of time before they get what they want with Facebook, too. And Bing will surely suffer the consequences in some way for ever having challenged the search engine giant. Sure, it may sound a little paranoid, but it doesn’t mean I’m not right. Remember, Google did offer to curb scanning in books that were copyrighted during the previous lawsuit. Er…no, actually they didn’t. They were going to scan them in anyway and leave it to authors to police their system for them. Because that’s how it should work.
On an interesting note, Google is paying to digitize these books and make them available. This can go one of a couple of ways here. Does it make sense to invest money scanning books in and make them available for free? I’m trying to see the upside for the company here, especially since it’s a substantial investment. Or, will they eventually start looking for a way to charge for some of the books in order to make back on their investment? And, if so, will they then have captured a huge percentage of the world’s literary catalog, thereby allowing them to control it however they like?
Lots of questions here and no forthcoming answers. As a reader, I’m intrigued to be able to explore some of these works if they are indeed kept free for us to read. As a writer, I’m terrified at what could come and how much control an entity like Google could potentially amount compared to what they’ve already achieved.