It seems to me that the argument that Google “breaks copyright” with various services is beginning to gain some serious traction. Take this column by the perspicacious Charles Arthur:
Jens Redmer, director of Google’s Book Search program in Europe, looks hurt at suggestions that the scheme is anything but altruistic and legal. It must help authors, he says, for books to be found. (Perhaps that’s true, but personally, I’d rather argue the publishers’ case before a judge.) Google gets the book contents free, gets to sell adverts against them, and the publishers get … what? The promise that they might sell some more books. It certainly sounds like something for nothing. And once again, it’s Google that gets the something, and everyone else who is left scrabbling for the scraps.
The interesting phrase in that is that Book and Library Search “must help authors”. Interesting because, broadly, it’s not authors who are screaming about Book Search – it’s publishers. The reasons for that are pretty obvious – it’s publishers who provide the “monetisation mechanism” for authors, and as Google moves more and more into their patch they can hear the screeching sound of disintermediation growing loud in their ears.
[Sidenote: a while ago I chatted with a friend who works for a big, big company in New York. He needed some information from an expensive business book, including data and some analysis that wasn’t available anywhere else. How did he get it? Google Book Search, used selectively and intelligently. I know the plural of anecdote is not data, but do we really believe that publishers aren’t losing out when that happens? Does the benefit of “being found” outweigh the death by a thousand cuts such as those? And who’s weighing the difference?]
Then, there comes the PaidContent story that Google’s image search has been accused of copyright violation by a US district judge:
The judge noted that Google’s mobile picture search had a role in this ruling: Google Mobile’s image search option permits handheld devices to perform the identical search of more than 2 billion images, then save the scaled-down images for future reference. Those scaled-down images are similar to what Perfect 10 offers as a subscription service through U.K.-based Fonestarz and could, the court ruled, harm the market for Perfect 10’s subscription-based image sales.