Googleopoly or: A Case for Personal Publishing

Let me give you one example of why I’m apprehensive—and I am—about companies like Google. This post over at Coyle’s Information (which Patrick Murray-John recommended a while back) should be read in its entirety, but here is a snippet that frames the deal Google made with the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and how it impacts libraries who had been invited by Google to help them digitize their libraries for free (or a deal with the devil):

The deal that Google and the libraries had was that in exchange for working with Google to digitize books in their collections, the libraries received a copy of the digital file. After that, it was up to the libraries to do the right thing based on their understanding of copyright law. Participating with Google has been an expensive proposition for the libraries in terms of their own staff time and in the development of digital storage facilities. Part of the appeal of working with Google was the assumption that partnering with the search giant gave the entire project clout and provided some protection for the libraries. With Google and the AAP now in cahoots, the libraries must join them or try to stand alone in an unclear legal situation; an unclear situation that Google invited the libraries into in the first place.

This is classic bait and switch. And it is bait and switch with powerful commercial interests against public institutions. There is no question about it…


Why should schools be any different than libraries? And as Tony Bates notes in his post about “Googleopoly”, anyone who has published, or intends to publish, should be looking into the implications of the Google Settlement regarding their right to copy and distribute published books. He refers to a couple of quotes from Grace Westcott’s article “Googleopoly” in the Globe and Mail, which frames the implications of Google’s settlement with the AAP for other countries, and it looks just as bad for them as small libraries in the US:

‘The settlement is astonishing in its scope. If approved, it will permit Google, on a non-exclusive basis, to continue to digitize books from any source, and to maintain, expand and sell access to its enormous digital library in a number of specified ways.’

‘One implication you won’t find mentioned in U.S. summaries is the effect on libraries in Canada and the rest of the world. Unable to get access to a Google institutional subscription outside the U.S., Canada’s university libraries will be unable to compete with the more comprehensive offerings in the U.S., or, for that matter, with the offerings of even the smallest of its public libraries, each of which is entitled under the settlement to free access on one terminal to the entire Google database. Because the settlement does not address Canadian rights in books, Canadian users don’t get the benefits; outside the U.S., Google Book Search remains unchanged.’

I can’t see a more compelling case for pushing personal publishing with the tools we now have ever more vehemently, it is time for us to take back ownership of our ideas. All of us!

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10 Responses to Googleopoly or: A Case for Personal Publishing

  1. glen says:

    it is time for us to take back ownership of our ideas. All of us!

    Agree. How much of this is because of the Canadian delusion that Canadian content must be hosted on Canadian servers or US homeland security might read our mail?

    Say everything.

    • Reverend says:


      Why would that be a delusion for Canadian education institutions? I may be reading you wrong here, but I think it has everything to do with the Patriot Act, which certainly isn’t a delusion, nor is the dept. of Homeland Security. And it is particularly Candian educational institutions that need to protect the rights of their students from an overzealous US intelligence agency.

      I have to agree with Andrea_r below, Google’s framing of this bad deal with the APA devil as specifically a US agreement, creates a whole series of further problems for countries beyond our borders. And interesting questions of transnational corporations re-defining their national boundaries around copyright raises a whole series of important questions about the death of that US content we pride ourselves with colonizing the globe. Cultures will get tired of paying out the nose in terms of copyright, and we are in effect choking out creativity in TV, music, and the arts, which are a few of the things I greatly value about out culture. And Google and the APA deal is just one example, we hear so much about the RIAA and MPAA (and rightly so) but the world of text and books is in the same boat, and Google is playing their nefarious game.

  2. Andrea_R says:

    As a Canadian, I have to say it has far, far less to do with that “delusion”, and far MORE to do with how pervasive American content is in our country.

    On top of that, the legalities in Canada on this may be slightly different.

  3. Its a shame that Google can’t seperate their commercial interest from their vision more. Making books available online would be great! But as you point out, there is a practical trust issue there with Google.. if only Google would provide resources to and help them progress their great work already. If Google’s intentions were truly visionary, that is what they’d do to allay the trust issues hey? and help keep up their greatness.

    • Reverend says:

      ht’s an excellent point, and I never really thought about it in this regard before, why isn’t Google helping to bolster and support the Internet Archive? And if it is because they are a company and need to make smart investments to corner a market and maintain insane growth and profit every year, well than that logic will devour us all.

      And this comes out of an understanding that Google has been nothing short of phenomenal with the work they have done and their lightweight and smart frameworks thus far, but as the creep more and more into the realm of publishing, media, and cultural rights over our digital archive, well then there need be a larger sense of some public domain that is not dictated by the APA, RIAA, and MPAA, or Google for that matter.

  4. Nathan Rein says:

    Robert Darnton in the New York Review of Books on this same point:

  5. There’s so many issues here. But I think the biggest one is this — that the government *has* to get into this area before it becomes a privatized mess. Public libraries date back 400 years, and the huge push for them was in the 19th century — before the information age.

    We can shy away from what Google does or not. It ultimately doesn’t matter — in the absence of true collective action there will be no net effect, b/c what is causing this situation is a vacuum created by government refusing to step into this area. We can oppose Google, or what steps into the area after Google. Or we can deal with a world of 90 vendors digitizing individual collections, with every incentive to keep that stuff firewalled (vendors survive almost entirely oon ‘security’ and legal issues).

    So while I agree with your post, I think our focus has to be relentlessly on pushing the government to build our inforamtion infrastructure. Any scenario that does not end with deprivatizing these efforts will be a mess, no matter who the villians are.

  6. Bruce Sterling agrees.

    …I’ve never seen so much panic around me, but panic is the last thing on my mind. My mood is eager impatience. I want to see our best, most creative, best-intentioned people in world society directly attacking our worst problems. I’m bored with the deceit. I’m tired of obscurantism and cover-ups. I’m disgusted with cynical spin and the culture war for profit. I’m up to here with phony baloney market fundamentalism. I despise a prostituted society where we put a dollar sign in front of our eyes so we could run straight into the ditch.

    The cure for panic is action. Coherent action is great; for a scatterbrained web society, that may be a bit much to ask. Well, any action is better than whining. We can do better.

    I’m not gonna tell you what to do. I’m an artist, I’m not running for office and I don’t want any of your money. Just talk among yourselves. Grow up to the size of your challenges. Bang out some code, build some platforms you don’t have to duct-tape any more, make more opportunities than you can grab for your little selves, and let’s get after living real lives.

    The future is unwritten. Thank you very much.

  7. Brad K says:

    I really don’t understand all of this. I hate large corporations and draconian intellectual property laws as much as the next guy, but…

    This sounds like a lot of hemming and hawing from copyright holders that google will make their work available. I am not one that has ever felt that copyright is the major force behind all the advances in art and science of the last 100 years, so I don’t really care all that much.

    Yes, google is making something huge that will be hard to compete with. Not a good thing.

    Yes, the deal is US only, which sucks, but that is an effect of an entangled copyright system.

    I am not sure what I am supposed to be mad at google for here, that they did not disregard copyright law entirely, or that they are subverting copyright law by coercing rights holders to make their stuff available.

  8. Mike Caulfield says:

    A note to people —

    Help out — publish your audio on it. I considered using GarageBand or Jamendo, etc, but ultimately went with

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