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Charlie StrossPerson was signed in when posted
06:18 PM ET (US)
Watch the blog for more on this topic. From a somewhat more radical standpoint. (I now tend to think COCOA is flawed, albeit not so flawed as to be flat-out useless.)
Bill Glover
03:37 AM ET (US)
(As for me, I'm signing the petition -- and granting Google blanket permission to index my works and make them available to readers. Because, y'know, I'm happy for people to be able to find my work in the library; but it'd be nice if they asked for permission first.)

I agree with your sentiment, and I signed the petition as well. Have you formally granted Google permission somehow, and if so how? I would be interested in doing the same. I need to talk to my publisher (O'Reilly) to make sure they are clear about the indexing rights question as well, but they have always seemed more than reasonable about this sort of thing.
Jonathan Vos Post
02:54 AM ET (US)
Is this the place for this?

October 17, 2005
This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics (Week 222)
John Baez

"... Actually, just for fun, let's start with this science fiction novel I picked up in Heathrow en route to Berlin":

Charles Stross, Accelerando, Ace Books, New York. Also available at http://www.accelerando.org/book/

"This is one of the few tales I've read that does a good job of fleshing out Verner Vinge's 'Singularity' scenario, where the accelerating development of technology soars past human comprehension and undergoes a phase transition to a thoroughly different world. This is a real possibility, and it's been discussed a lot":

Wikipedia, Technological singularity,

Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity,

Anders Sandberg, The Singularity,

"However, it's not an easy subject for fiction - at least not for mere human readers! Stross makes it gripping: sometimes goofy, sometimes thrilling, and sometimes rather sad. Characters include a robot cat with ever-growing powers and some space-faring uploaded lobsters.

"The hero, Manfred Macx, starts out as a freeware developer, futurist and all-purpose wheeler-dealer. Here's a scene from the beginning of the book, before all hell breaks loose":

[quote within quote within quote trunacted]
"An idea a minute - and the book is free online: what more could you want?"

Reading John Baez's stuff is mind-expanding itself, even if most folks (exceptions include Greg Egan, who's been cited there) have to skip the equations.
Jonathan Vos Post
02:07 PM ET (US)
The question remains: under Google's plans (and see also today's New York Times book reviews of two differing books ABOUT Google), would we see more or fewer new works such as the following? Who would benefit? Who would suffer?

2928 Ways to Define Science Fiction
by Gary Westfahl

"... In December, 2000, Fred Shapiro, an editor working with Yale University Press to compile a definitive collection of quotations, asked me if I would be interested in editing a book of science fiction quotations, as a side project to his own book. After four years of labor, the completed book, Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits, has now been published. It represents, I believe, the first example of a fourth method of defining science fiction — not with a representative collection of complete works of science fiction, but with a representative collection of brief excerpts from various texts. To be specific, the volume offers 2928 passages of prose, and a little poetry, taken from 1208 works by 530 authors. These quotations, primarily intended to offer entertainment and insights, necessarily present as well a new sort of portrait of science fiction...."
12:26 PM ET (US)
For what it's worth, Holly Lisle has removed her books from google:
07:35 AM ET (US)
Andrew: True, Google should probably buy two or three copies of each book they index, at least when such books are available--that's how many copies they'll be keeping on their servers. We're talking, what, a couple of dollars in royalties? Remember, Google, unlike a library, won't let anybody read the book; they'll just quote a couple of sentences and link to a bookstore. They're an automated book reviewer (at least in their "30 words" incarnation), not a lending library.

It should be noted, though, that only a vanishingly tiny percentage of books in an average university library will still be in print. Once something drops into the backlist--especially 30 or 40 years into the backlist--it's frequently impossible to contact the author (without, perhaps, hiring a private detective). For every book that anybody remembers, there's a hundred more that sank without a trace. I want to search those books. I want to buy those books, used.

How much money would this pump into the backlist? In a good year, I spend thousands of dollars on books. Science fiction, technical manuals, you name it. I own almost every word our host has ever written, most of them in hardcover.

Serraphin: Book reviewers also quote ~30 words of your book, charge money for their reviews, and pay you no royalty. Sometimes they sell ads on the same page. Are you going to tell the New York Review of Books they're stealing, just because they quoted a couple of apt sentences in the course of their commercial venture?

With a little bit of organization on the part of authors (I know, I know), opt-out through COCOA could be as easy as looking up your ISBNs, verifying your identity, and calling it done. It could apply across Google, Amazon, and any future services. And such an opt-out process would allow the backlist to be indexed, which would never happen with any opt-in approach.
07:13 AM ET (US)
Mark, if you want to keep archive.org from recording your sites, you need to create a robots.txt file at the root level of your server:


If that's no longer possible, I think you need to contact them directly. Generally, they'll pull anything if you can prove you control the domain.

Realistically, if Google Print is going to be opt-out rather than opt-in, Google should at least make the effort to check established COCOA-style databases. This is a reasonable compromise, and one that would (a) respect the wishes of any author who's willing to make a token effort, and (b) save the Authors Guild from fighting Google in court over the legality of indexing.
SerraphinPerson was signed in when posted
12:05 PM ET (US)
Eric - I agree on why the google plan could benifit all of mankind. I'm all for freedom of information - but that's as in (to quote the Man) Freedom of Speech, not Free Lunch.

This is a commercial venture by Google, using another 'businesses' tool (i.e. book). Ergo you should opt in not have to opt out.

Goggle would kick the living shit out of me if I robbed their engine for a website of mine, that allowed you to search for keywords in my books...They'd make me pay.
Andrew Gray
11:33 AM ET (US)
A big difference between Google Print and libraries is that physical libraries have to buy a copy of the book they loan out. The American Library Association states there are 117,664 libraries in the US, so you could sell thousands of copies of your books just to libaries. Of course, over 93,000 of them are school libaries, so if you don't have a book they'd want to stock you're out of luck.

I think Google might be better off if they took the approach they're using with Google Scholar for copyrighted books.
09:50 AM ET (US)
Although an opt-out is good I think COCOA would help strengthen it more.
Also a great example of this:

I hope archive.org has an opt-out because I really don't want some of my old stuff up there, that I chose to delete.

In the U.S. I think it's: If I throw it up on the web and it's dated it's auto-copyrighted, but that's only related to my own jurisdiction so really more useless i think. I dunno.
Edited 11-15-2005 09:53 AM
09:08 AM ET (US)
Serraphin: But you have to allow someone to cache your site to let the www in its current incarnation work :)

True, but this is an argument about fair use: The web--and especially search--would be useless if people couldn't make copies and keep them on a server for a few months. (That's what Google does; they make multiple byte-for-byte copies and store them until the next scan.)

But what's the connection between copying being good for the web and copying being legal?. Not much, unless you believe in fair use. Fair use allows small infringements if they benefit society enough.

So why should we, as a society, allow Google Print to fudge copyright rules enough to scan books, index them, and show 30 words at a time? Because it would cost the average author little, it would increase sales of the backlist, and--most importantly--it would make most of human written knowledge available within a two-second search.

Huge benefit, little cost.

Again, this is an argument about defaults. I think that any author who objects should be able to (1) send a form letter to Google (and their competitors) telling them to leave certain ISBNs alone, or (2) post such notices in a common database. But if we actually require Google to perform copyright searches and secure individual permission for each book, we'll loose about 80 years of backlist, and a lot of minor works in the frontlist.
SerraphinPerson was signed in when posted
07:14 AM ET (US)
Yeah Bill - but think of the tech' of the time :) How much did your average book cost circa 1850? It wasn't worth plagarism as mass book publishing wasn't the norm!

I agree some copyright alterations over the years are mad, but I think that if you look deep down - this is more likely to be the music/film industry screwing the laws to their own devices.
Bill Martin
06:23 AM ET (US)

actually, reading about copyright recently - apparently back in the 19th C. when British authors were not covereed by copyright laws, they still managed to turn a tidy profit (selling exclusive rights to first prints, tec.)

Originally, copyright was supposed to last only about 5 years, but that has been gradually increased by intellectual rentiers to our ludicrous 70 years after the author's death (Bernard Shaw plays from 1890 are still in copyright!)

The balance is between the incentive to write and publish and the benefits of information dissemination. There are other models than copyright.
SerraphinPerson was signed in when posted
04:30 AM ET (US)
Hey Eric - I'm really getting into this one :-)

Right - Google Cache your site, not copy it. Very very slim (more or less undefinable) difference. But you have to allow someone to cache your site to let the www in its current incarnation work :) You can't view cached pages that are behind a secure site, for example, or my personal webmail.

UK libraries don't pay royalties to writers (Charlie's comment was that he gets a percentage of what they charge, which in the UK is nothing, so he gets - nothing).

But back to the real important thing that seems to be worming out of grasp on the Google plans. They are not indexing the books with 30 word snippets... Google plan to scan/OCR the Entire text of a book.

I'm sure no-one complains about having the cover-blurb published anywhere, or even a few paragraphs of flavour for a reviw.

But Google don't own my work - if they want to use it, they can damn well ask me. Even Bewildering Stories, a free e-zine who hold a few of my paltry efforts, ask me if they plan to anthologise or re-issue something.

I know for a fact Charlie's not against publishing stuff free (You do recall that you can get the entire of Accelerando, including cover art, free from the web thanks to Mr S?).

Copyright is important to writers, it's the thing that lets them get paid for their work and not have entire books snaffled by some smart arsed publisher with a printing press out back. Google, if allowed to copy entire texts without regard to copyright, are setting a dangerous precedent for those who would profit by stealing the work of others (which purdy much amounts to exactly what Google are doing).
01:28 PM ET (US)
Serraphin: I'm aware that Google would need to keep private copies of the books on their servers. But they already keep a private copy of the web, and nobody seems to think that's wrong. I'm happy to let them copy my (copyrighted, non-CC) websites.

But I'm also noticing some US/UK confusion in this thread. Apparently, the UK has extremely restrictive laws about fair use. For example, UK writers receive royalties from public libraries, a policy which would be laughed out of court on our side of the pond. And under US rules for backups, you presumably could make a private photocopy of a book.

Fundamentally, though, this is an argument about defaults: Should the Google Print's indexing be opt-in, or opt-out?

I've volunteered for the Gutenberg project before, so I have a good idea what it takes to get copyright clearance on older works. If you're dealing with more than a few books, it's basically impossible.

My argument: Claiming that, "Google can only index books with the author's permission," is equivalent to saying, "We shouldn't have a full-text searchable archive of anything besides pre-1920s books and the current front-list." And in the eyes this bibliophile, losing the ability to search obscure fiction from 1954 (say) would be a terrible crime.

Under US law, the solution is simple: Simply decide that indexing books and quoting 30 words is covered under fair use, and call it done. To appease those authors who can't _stand_ the thought that somebody, somewhere might read 30 words without paying, offer a way to opt-out. This approach worked fine on the web.

For me, the argument against building Google Print (at least the "30 words" version) is a time-reversed version of the argument for burning the Library of Alexandria. And if I recall correctly, the Library of Alexandria was built by impounding books at customs, making private copies, and giving them back. :-)

Once again, I agree that Google needs to offer an opt-out, and deal directly with the actual copyright holder.
12:32 PM ET (US)
Wow I have a headache here: I understand now. I am trying to figure out the loophole Google is crawling through. Maybe they think people can't prove they have an entire book online at the same time or something like that. After all, consumers only see a "Fair Use" version of the book. So how could one proove that they had copied an entire book all in one piece.
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