Microsoft lawyer takes aim at Google's book-scanning project

Microsoft is taking aim at Google Inc.'s rival book-scanning project, saying the search company ``systematically violates copyright.'' In prepared remarks he is scheduled to deliver Tuesday to a publishing industry group, a Microsoft Corp. lawyer also said Google is cutting into the profits of authors and publishers. ``Companies that create no content of their own, and make money solely on the backs of other people's content, are raking in billions through advertising revenue,'' wrote Thomas C. Rubin, an associate general counsel at Microsoft, in the speech he planned to give at the annual meeting of the Association of American Publishers in New York.

Google and Microsoft are both scanning libraries' worth of books, then making the tomes searchable on the Web, but the two companies take different approaches. Microsoft is scanning works no longer covered by copyright law, plus newer titles publishers give Microsoft explicit permission to use. Google isn't excluding copyrighted works from its scanning project, and has said the snippets of books it displays on the Web should be considered ``fair use,'' a principle that allows limited copying of protected works for certain purposes.

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13 Comments

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I dont see why we dont just scan every book and make an online library...
charge for a membership... and voila...
authors whose books get read... get paid...

I dont see how this is any different than a public library... its just online.

sao123 said,
I dont see why we dont just scan every book and make an online library...
charge for a membership... and voila...
authors whose books get read... get paid...

I dont see how this is any different than a public library... its just online.

Screw that.

Reading books on a computer is crappy. I'll take a real PAPER (ooooo..the novelty) book over an ebook any day of the week.

ahhell said,
Screw that.

Reading books on a computer is crappy. I'll take a real PAPER (ooooo..the novelty) book over an ebook any day of the week.

Well said.

It's important to realize there are two aspects of Google Book Search:
- The Partner Program for publishers and authors. This is an opt-in program to advertise your books.
- The Library Project where Google scans books. This is a project where a library has agreed to let Google scan their books, and where authors not agreeing with this but having books in that library can opt-out. Additionally, Google only scans book snippets to comply with fair use laws in case it would be copyrighted, and only reveals full texts if the book was found to be in the public domain.

Here are the services book authors get if they happened to have their book(s) scanned as part of the library program:
http://books.google.com/support/bin/answer...amp;ctx=sibling

And if they don't agree with the library's decision and for some strange reason don't want free advertising on Google Books:
http://books.google.com/support/bin/answer...amp;ctx=sibling

I'm not sure why Microsoft is complaining about this, when Google apparently isn't hammered by lawsuits for doing this anymore beyond some initial worries that seem to have largely blown over. After all, if the coast is clear, why aren't Microsoft also scanning on a "fair use-scale" for copyrighted material? Quoting copyrighted material as snippets is very common -- Google does it, Wikipedia does it, newspapers and journalists does it. It's a cornerstone in US copyright law -- why don't MS use it?

It's almost as if these libraries has it as a clause in their contract that they can not let competitors scan copyrighted material for posting online and that Google now has exclusive rights on this. That's the only reason I can think of that MS wants to destroy Google's business here really (instead of just doing the same), because companies just don't tend to avoid doing something if they have a fair amount of legal backing.

Thank you for the excellent post.

Jugalator said,
I'm not sure why Microsoft is complaining about this,...

IMHO, this complaint is driven not by moral, ethical, or even legal issues, but rather financial ones. Microsoft is slipping further and further behind Google in many areas and will do anything to try and catch-up. You can't blame them, but it does shine them in a bad light.

stifler6478 said,
Yes, I'm sure Microsoft's lawyers know none of that...

Since when has having knowledge of something kept Microsoft from spreading FUD? Don't you think that Ballmer knows that Linux is not stepping on MS IP? That doesn't stop him from the tyrannical fear mongering he has been doing lately. This is the same thing.

lbmouse said,

Since when has having knowledge of something kept Microsoft from spreading FUD? Don't you think that Ballmer knows that Linux is not stepping on MS IP? That doesn't stop him from the tyrannical fear mongering he has been doing lately. This is the same thing.

I think you just like spreading FUD. I know you hate MS, so I don't expect any less from you.

-Spenser

How does one hate a company? It's just a group of people working towards a common goal. You can disagree with these goals and not care for their products, but hate? No. Personally, I'm a champion of competition. Competition is good for the industry (my job) and consumers (me). So, I may disagree with some of Microsoft's anti-competition goals, but that doesn't mean I hate anyone.

I work for one of the world's largest MS Gold Certified partners and myself and my programmers use MS tools all the time. This gives me EVERY RIGHT to be the squeaky wheel, bitch, complain, and rant when MS releases crappy products. You might try as hard as you can being a MS fanboy, but eventually you'll learn that you just can't polish a turd. Again, this doesn't mean I hate anyone. It means that MS needs to improve their product or I will find a better tool (aka competition). After all MS is just a company that makes tools... that's all... nothing more. If you are blinded by brand loyalty, you'll never make it very long in this industry.

lbmouse said,
IMHO, this complaint is driven not by moral, ethical, or even legal issues, but rather financial ones. Microsoft is slipping further and further behind Google in many areas and will do anything to try and catch-up. You can't blame them, but it does shine them in a bad light.

That's what I thought of as well. They're trying to be Google, in a sense, by taking on so many projects for the web.

Truth be told, I'd rather them stop trying and work more on their software since I'm only going to use the Google version. And it's not that I'm a fanboy of Googleware or anything, but things like Soapbox for instance.. just don't thrill me. I've yet to see MS make a webapp that I actually like (wait, Live Mail is awesome! ..but Google's got POP3). Not to mention that they're all in ONE PLACE. How many sites must I remember/bookmark from MS? :/

Just saying though.