So this recent blog post on Tech Review had me scratching my head in puzzlement. To quote from this very illuminating post’s bottomline:
the DOJ is publicly expressing dissatisfaction with a revised settlement between Google and publishers, a settlement it says will never allow for a competitor to Google Books …
The settlement allows Google to sell copies of works that no other organization in the U.S. can sell: so-called “orphaned” works where the original copyright holder cannot be located because, for instance, they went out of business, of poor record-keeping or mergers.
Wait, wtf? So you’re saying that a bunch of folks who don’t have the rights to something, are allowed to cede those non-existent rights to someone else? Is that what is happening here?
Also this applies only to books published in the United States, right? Well, being the greatest country in the world and everything has its advantages, but owning the world’s collective intellectual property is not one of them. Google can own all the “orphaned” books of American – or Western – origin, but I don’t see anything like that happening in the rest of the world anytime soon.
Also, such a development only highlights the vapid, rapacious and logically inconsistent nature of the western copyright philosophy in the present era. Contrary to common wisdom, it is not the restriction of knowledge, but its free flow that allows great innovation and progress. If time and evolution are any guides, then such repressive approaches to information sharing are bound to go the way of other dead philosophies such as slavery and totalitarianism, but not before causing grave damage to the cause of human freedom in the process.
And as far as Google’s “Do no evil” motto is concerned, I think its high time for an upgrade to something more pragmatic and reflective of reality. Such as “Its OK as long as you are Google”.