A Bookish Win For Google

Google BooksIt’s unlikely that this story will survive more than one news cycle… indeed as we deal with the Philippines Disaster and the latest gun rampage this story may never cross your desk. So it’s with a glad heart that I can declare a win for the good guys today… and weirdly today the good guys are Google.

What feels like a million years ago, but was is in fact only about 8 years; the publishers and Authors associations/guilds (whatever) sued Google over copyright infringement for Google Books. Ironically, the intervening years have established scanned books and all they represent in terms of keeping all our of print books available to more than a few researchers as invaluable to the whole world. Even though the parties to the case reached multiple settlements, the judge insisted that the case go forward and today Judge Chin ruled that the project both respected copyright holders rights and served an enormous public benefit. Finally, a judicial ruling that makes perfect sense.

I won’t bore you with minutiae of the argument, no doubt the losers in this quixotic case will appeal and waste more of their members money flogging a horse, which died about 5 years ago.  Meanwhile Google will continue to scan and in many ways rescue books that are out of print, out of copyright, or just plain languishing in the stacks of libraries all over the world. As we move inexorably from a dead tree digital world digitizing the massive corpus of the world’s writing and mobilizing them for humanity to experience is an expensive and reasonably thankless task. If Google weren’t doing this essentially for free, we’d likely have to wait for some governmental body to do that for us… and we know how well that stuff works out. So score one for humanity, and let’s give Google credit where it’s due… this one time.

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