Wednesday, October 19, 2005
You may have read about the AAP's lawsuit announced today which objects to Google Print. We'll post our comments about that soon. Meanwhile, we offer this commentary from Eric Schmidt. It ran on the op-ed page of yesterday's Wall Street Journal, and we are reprinting it in full with that paper's permission.
Books of Revelation
By Eric Schmidt
The Wall Street Journal
October 18, 2005
Imagine sitting at your computer and, in less than a second, searching the full text of every book ever written. Imagine an historian being able to instantly find every book that mentions the Battle of Algiers. Imagine a high school student in Bangladesh discovering an out-of-print author held only in a library in Ann Arbor. Imagine one giant electronic card catalog that makes all the world's books discoverable with just a few keystrokes by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
That's the vision behind Google Print, a program we introduced last fall to help users search through the oceans of information contained in the world's books. Recently, some members of the publishing industry who believe this program violates copyright law have been fighting to stop it. We respectfully disagree with their conclusions, on both the meaning of the law and the spirit of a program which, in fact, will enhance the value of each copyright. Here's why.
Google's job is to help people find information. Google Print's job is to make it easier for people to find books. When you do a Google search, your results now include pointers to those books whose contents, stored in the Google Print index, contain your search terms. For many books, these results will, like an ordinary card catalog, contain basic bibliographic information and, at most, a few lines of text where your search terms appear.
We show more than this basic information only if a book is in the public domain, or if the copyright owner has explicitly allowed it by adding this title to the Publisher Program (most major U.S. and U.K. publishers have signed up). We refer people who discover books through Google Print to online retailers, but we don't make a penny on referrals. We also don't place ads on Google Print pages for books from our Library Project, and we do so for books in our Publishing Program only with the permission of publishers, who receive the majority of the resulting revenue. Any copyright holder can easily exclude their titles from Google Print -- no lawsuit is required.
This policy is entirely in keeping with our main Web search engine. In order to guide users to the information they're looking for, we copy and index all the Web sites we find. If we didn't, a useful search engine would be impossible, and the same dynamic applies to the Google Print Library Project. By most estimates, less than 20% of books are in print, and only around 20% of titles, according to the Online Computer Library Center, are in the public domain. This leaves a startling 60% of all books that publishers are unlikely to be able to add to our program and readers are unlikely to find. Only by physically scanning and indexing every word of the extraordinary collections of our partner libraries at Michigan, Stanford, Oxford, the New York Public Library and Harvard can we make all these lost titles discoverable with the level of comprehensiveness that will make Google Print a world-changing resource. But just as any Web site owner who doesn't want to be included in our main search index is welcome to exclude pages from his site, copyright-holders are free to send us a list of titles that they don't want included in the Google Print index.
For some, this isn't enough. The program's critics maintain that any use of their books requires their permission. We have the utmost respect for the intellectual and creative effort that lies behind every grant of copyright. Copyright law, however, is all about which uses require permission and which don't; and we believe (and have structured Google Print to ensure) that the use we make of books we scan through the Library Project is consistent with the Copyright Act, whose "fair use" balancing of the rights of copyright-holders with the public benefits of free expression and innovation allows a wide range of activity, from book quotations in reviews to parodies of pop songs -- all without copyright-holder permission.
Even those critics who understand that copyright law is not absolute argue that making a full copy of a given work, even just to index it, can never constitute fair use. If this were so, you wouldn't be able to record a TV show to watch it later or use a search engine that indexes billions of Web pages. The aim of the Copyright Act is to protect and enhance the value of creative works in order to encourage more of them -- in this case, to ensure that authors write and publishers publish. We find it difficult to believe that authors will stop writing books because Google Print makes them easier to find, or that publishers will stop selling books because Google Print might increase their sales.
Indeed, some of Google Print's primary beneficiaries will be publishers and authors themselves. Backlist titles comprise the vast majority of books in print and a large portion of many publishers' profits, but just a fraction of their marketing budgets. Google Print will allow those titles to live forever, just one search away from being found and purchased. Some authors are already seeing the benefits. When Cardinal Ratzinger became pope, millions of people who searched his name saw the Google Print listing for his book "In the Beginning" (Wm. B. Eerdmans) in their results. Thousands of them looked at a page or two from the book; clicks on the title's "Buy this Book" links increased tenfold.
That's the heart of the Google Print mission. Imagine the cultural impact of putting tens of millions of previously inaccessible volumes into one vast index, every word of which is searchable by anyone, rich and poor, urban and rural, First World and Third, en toute langue -- and all, of course, entirely for free. How many users will find, and then buy, books they never could have discovered any other way? How many out-of-print and backlist titles will find new and renewed sales life? How many future authors will make a living through their words solely because the Internet has made it so much easier for a scattered audience to find them? This egalitarianism of information dispersal is precisely what the Web is best at; precisely what leads to powerful new business models for the creative community; precisely what copyright law is ultimately intended to support; and, together with our partners, precisely what we hope, and expect, to accomplish with Google Print.
Mr. Schmidt is CEO of Google.