Google’s Big Novmeber Decision

In the November 2005 (Issue 13.11) issue of Wired, Lawrence Lessig points out that November will be decision time for Google on its Google Print program.

The program was originally announced more than a year ago. The objective was to index 15 million books. For works subject to copyright, the search results would only show a few lines before and after the search term that is found in the text. For works that are in the public domain, users would be given access to the entire work.

Not everyone was in favor of the idea. In September, the Authors Guild filed suit against Google and the Association of American Publishers expressed “grave misgivings” that Google may be infringing copyright. According to Lessig, this is the first time in history that an objection has been raised to indexing. In response to these concerns, Google offered to delay the project until November and to exclude from scanning and indexing any book the pub­lishers identify.

Many believe that what Google is planning to do falls within the scope of fair use. If it doesn’t then the attack actually goes to the core of Google’s business – indexing of websites. That’s what Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines do – they index websites without the prior permission of the owners (but most will check for special exclusion files on the website that a publisher can insert to notify search engines not to index the site). In fact, the web indexing goes further than Google Print because Google Search also caches an entire copy of the indexed site and makes access to the cached copy available with the search results. It also translates PDF documents into HTML.

So the outcome of the Google Print dispute can actually have a much wider impact on the future of the Internet.