Media Disintermediation, Redux

21 Sep ’05

The battle over the middleground continues – Apple is defending the $.99 song and Google is getting sued for putting the world’s libraries online. When we look back on the early part of this century, will we see it as a time when the battle for the middle ground – the battle over distribution of the world’s information – entered a period of withering trench warfare – a time when the old powers were gradually worn down and extinguished by the overwhelming weight of the ‘net?

I sure hope so.

Apple is trying to hold the line on the $.99 song, resisting pressure from record companies who have now realized that ‘this internet thing’ might just catch on, while new music services align and re-align themselves in an effort to unseat iTunes. (How long before most of the pretenders are onside with the record companies’ pricing, and Apple’s format dependency on the iPod starts to hurt it? Will the survivability of the $.99 song come down to the popularity of the iPod?)

Google is plowing ahead with its plan to dust off the world’s libraries and drag them blinking into the sunlight. Authors claim this is brazen and accuse Google of “massive” infringement (claim is here). Google notes that nothing gets published unless the author agrees, and at most a snippet will be shown. Note: snippet < massive. But Google will hopefully reply that it sure as heck is brazen, and if the world's libraries and publishers had tried something brazen years ago they wouldn't be in the fix they're in. Note to Authors: having "Guild" in your name is as sure a sign as anything that you are Dead Man Walking. Note to Google: being accused of being "brazen" or doing anything on a "massive" scale is a pretty reliable sign that settlement is not around the corner. Final note: How cool - Google uses its blog to reply. And a well-written reply it is:

Google respects copyright. The use we make of all the books we scan through the Library Project is fully consistent with both the fair use doctrine under U.S. copyright law and the principles underlying copyright law itself, which allow everything from parodies to excerpts in book reviews. (Here’s an article by one of the many legal scholars who have weighed in on Google Print.) [Ed. note: the EFF seems to agree]

Just as Google helps you find sites you might not have found any other way by indexing the full text of web pages, Google Print, like an electronic card catalog, indexes book content to help users find, and perhaps buy, books. This ability to introduce millions of users to millions of titles can only expand the market for authors’ books, which is precisely what copyright law is intended to foster.

Link here.

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