Monday, May 11, 2009

Is Google too big to infringe copyright?

Robert Kunstadt, an IP trial attorney in New York, is formally opposing the Google Book settlement. He briefly explains why here.
"Nimmer used to say "Ownership of a physical object [a book] is not ownership of the copyright in it." That is Copyright Law 101. But Google thought, "We can." The author's fundamental right is to control his or her work. Google's verbatim reproduction of scanned pages exceeds all bounds of "fair use" by abstracts or summaries. That the entire work is not reproduced is an aggravation, not a mitigation, since it violates the author's moral right under the Berne Convention to bar truncation of the work...

Authors should not be forced to comply with the proposed settlement's nonstatutory formalities to protect the author's rights. The author need only comply with U.S. copyright law. The parties may not amend the copyright law, creating an ad hoc alternative regime. The copyright law needs to be enforced, the settlement rejected and Google's willful infringement enjoined. Google, as a willful actor for profit, is punishable for copyright infringement the same as any software-pirating street peddler. To overcome the public perception that infringers are "Robin Hood" benefactors, IP law needs to be applied even-handedly to litigants large and small so that the public will see it in their own interest to support IP enforcement.

Google pursued its copying project in calculated disregard of authors' rights. Its business plan was: "So, sue me." To approve the proposed settlement would vindicate Google's street ethics: that the law is whatever you can grab and get away with. Google's added twist—its update on the Dickensian street pickpocket—is that if you take very little property from very many people, with a technological efficiency unimaginable to Fagin, you have some real money.

The settlement would reward Google's massive unauthorized online reproduction of copyrighted works, by making Google a "shadow copyright office" with a revenue percentage—unlike the real Copyright Office, which collects a flat fee.

Google took from the authors first—and belatedly now seeks to legitimize its misconduct by this settlement."

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