Copyright Clash

Sergey Brin and Larry Page don't think small. While still graduate students at Stanford in the mid 1990s, the two began working on a way to digitize all the world's books and make the content of those books easily searchable.

They wound up postponing that project to pursue another of their big ideas: a revolutionary new way to search through huge amounts of electronic data. Eight years ago they built a company around that idea, and that company--Google--is now the number one search engine in the world, with annual revenues of more than $8 billion.

Google's standard puts an unfair burden on rights owners, Adler claims. "Copyright owners would spend all their time monitoring whether anyone is using their works without permission."

Google responds that it is often impossible to locate a book's copyright owner. So if the company had to seek prior permission from copyright owners, a large percentage of books could never be included in Book Search. "There would be a huge gap if we or anyone else had to get permission from rights owners," says Alexander Macgillivray, senior product counsel for Google.

On the contrary, Patry claims, the program provides free advertising that can help boost sales by connecting interested readers with books of which they were unaware. He offers himself as an example: "I bought 70 books this year because I found out about them through Google Book Search."

This isn't enough for those suing Google. They want to control when and how their copyrighted works are used online--and they fear their ability to exploit works online will be lost if Google prevails.


Steven Seidenberg

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