First Books, then Buzz, then Books again: Google gets sued

First Books, then Buzz, then Books again: Google gets sued

Summary: We haven't heard much about the proposed Google Books settlement recently, but we do know that it's largely tangled up in court. I know and communicate with quite a few authors frequently and they seem to be largely divided on the issue.


We haven't heard much about the proposed Google Books settlement recently, but we do know that it's largely tangled up in court. I know and communicate with quite a few authors frequently and they seem to be largely divided on the issue. Some think that the settlement as it stands now can have direct benefits for authors and the public; others fiercely oppose one more area in which Google is overstepping its bounds.

This morning, another group announced a class action lawsuit against Google over their book-scanning project: photographers. Although the proposed settlement with the Authors' Guild covers the copy rights of the authors, it does not address those of the photographers or artists who made contributions to the books Google is attempting to scan.

According to PCWorld,

"Google has been involved in a massive campaign of unauthorized scanning and public display and distribution of works. A lot of those works are photographs and illustrations and they're doing it without authorization of the copyright owners," said Victor S. Perlman, the [American Society of Media Photographers] general counsel and managing director. "I call that infringement."

The presiding judge in the book-scanning case with the Authors' Guild did not allow the ASMP to become involved in that case, resulting in the new lawsuit. In the ASMP press release today, the group noted that they were joined by "Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photography Association, Professional Photographers of America, photographers Leif Skoogfors, Al Satterwhite, Morton Beebe, Ed Kashi and illustrators John Schmelzer and Simms Taback" in filing the lawsuit. The suit also appears broader than that of the Authors' Guild:

The new class action goes beyond Google’s Library Project, and includes Google’s other systematic and pervasive infringements of the rights of photographers, illustrators and other visual artists.

And in other Google lawsuit news, a lawsuit was filed Monday claiming that Buzz violated users' privacy. BusinessWeek quotes the lawsuit, filed by Barry Feldman:

“Google has publicly admitted that its Buzz program presents privacy concerns, and Google has made several waves of modifications to the program,” according to the lawsuit. The changes “do not go far enough,” and the error “already caused damage because the Buzz program disclosed private user information the moment Google launched the service.”

I think I like one of my reader's responses to my last Google Buzz post the best; it's particularly apt here:

The web in general is NOT private folks. Please get a clue. Google only compiles what is already public and puts it into one place. How is that invading your privacy when you've already made things public?

While it's clear that Google dropped the ball big time with its Buzz introduction and damaged a lot of trust, I have to wonder about the merits of a full-blown lawsuit over it. This is the web, after all, as the reader noted.

Topics: Google, Enterprise Software, Legal

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • They should

    Sue for triple damages. ;) Google doesn't own the web, and they're not above copyright law. Why in the world they thought this would work is beyond me.

    In any case, I agree that the web isn't private, but I don't trust Google with my data. Period. I wish they would stop using what little they have in any way they please. You don't know what's best for me, quit acting like you do.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • RE: First Books, then Buzz, then Books again: Google gets sued

    Google should move to Bermuda and run the world from an Evil Lair there.
  • What a Joke! haha... Publishers & Artist are Morons!

    Ten years ago I could go into a library and read a book,
    see the pictures in it and Libraries didn't get sued out
    of existence. I could even go online and have access ot
    books over the web in certain libraries. At Universities
    this was great, because you weren't packing them with
    people, wasting gas to get there and waiting in line to
    check them out. It was even considered a major sin to
    take that book home and scan the whole thing if you
    wanted. Just get the book back on it's due date. But
    publishers were out to pick up extra pocket change and
    authors, contributing photographers weren't looking for
    handouts from the like of Google either.

    The only difference today is instead of using the web to
    access a public or private University Library, you are
    accessing a library in the clouds. Why is that so
    different? Same Books, same Writers, same photographers
    in a different public library everyone has access to!

    What Google should do is get their settlements with all
    these idiots and then put of a BLACK LIST of all the
    Publishers, Writers and Photographers that wouldn't come
    to an agreement and PLASTER IT ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE
    SITE! ....then tell people these are the people that are
    denying you public access that you had to their very same
    books in Public Libraries!

    Then Sponsor a BOYCOTT OF THESE GREEDY B*****DS!
    • Nah...

      The moron is you.

      You fail to realize that what google is doing is NOT being a library, but being a publisher. Learn the difference. It's astounding really.
  • I Hope You All Get Sued Too! ;) lol NT

  • RE: First Books, then Buzz, then Books again: Google gets sued

    The response of "oh, it's the web and it's not private so stop complaining" is setting a very dangerous precedent. If Google is indeed aggregating all content and just showing what is public than they can also control the context of that information. By controlling a blackbox algorithm that parses all this data, Google can manipulate the context of all of our information (see Yelp's current woes). The consequences of this are dangerously far reaching.

    But the initial quote also shows that many people don't understand the web and I believe it would be Google's task to ensure that it does a better job of consumer education (it does not) and self-regulate before lawsuits continue to fly in their face (...the quote from Spiderman about power and responsibility).
    • I agree generally

      Two things do have to happen with the web.

      One, people have to get a clue. By that I mean they have to wake up to the fact that the web is not a very private place in general and the loser the circumstance of them posting information the more likely it may be accessed by those they wish didn't access it.

      Two, those who are in the business of hosting peoples information need to step up to the plate and supply some real security where its due.

      It serves little purpose to just sit back in these kind of situations and say people should take it on the chin because the internet is an inherently open place.
  • I think somebody is instigating against google

    and I bet they are headquartered in Redmond.
    Linux Geek
    • Google isn't above the law

      [i]"Would you be cool w/Google going down to
      Best Buy, getting a copy of every CD they had
      and ripping them into MP3's and giving them
      away for free from their site?

      I'm sure YOU would be, but not those musicians
      and labels.

      This is no different."[/i]

      User comment take from CNN article.

      This comment puts it well. Google is not above
      the law to steal others work. You can't put
      them up online without paying royalties.
      Copyright law is copyright law.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Your mind lives in Redmond.

      Redmond, Redmond, Redmond. My friend has a parrot that can converse on a deeper level than you.
      Thanks for being the guy even the Linux crowd dismisses. Your statements add a certain freakishness to this forum that in only found othewise at a carnival.

  • RE: First Books, then Buzz, then Books again: Google gets sued

    I 'publish' lots on the Web. When it gets misused, I
    accept that I have no real protection. I just hope my
    copyright is respected/acknowledged...
    Google has great services, let's not get dragged into
    legalistic minefields.
  • RE: First Books, then Buzz, then Books again: Google gets sued

    I am a writer with 15 published books, and I don't mind Google posting scanned (and searchable) copies of my work because it's all very low resolution (meaning, printing is pointless).
  • RE: First Books, then Buzz, then Books again: Google gets sued

    The internet is a public place, but publishing copyrighted material on the web doesn't void the copyright any more than does putting a book on the shelf in a bookstore.
    Prof Bob
  • Po widdo google

    Widdo baby can't do whatever it wants.
  • Not private - true. But still illegal to steal

    That quote about the web in general is not private.... While I understand what he meant, using it in this context is plain wrong. There is lots of stuff published on the web which is subject to copyright. Taking it and making it available to everyone very easily is theft. Don't believe me? Substitute books for music. There are millions of songs out there that are no longer in circulation. See how far you get by putting them all on one site and saying help yourself.
    • Many people are of the opinion that if it is on the net

      It is NOT illegal to download it in any fashion whatsoever. These lawsuits might actually hurt in the long run, by having Google REFUSE to list search terms for these companies and photographers, as a 'tit for tat' thing.
  • RE: First Books, then Buzz, then Books again: Google gets sued

    At the end of the day if companies and others were not so greedy and sold their goods / services more reasonably more people would buy and there would be less need to seek the stuff through other means and companies would probably find that they actually are doing more business.

    Secondly - when does money making stop. You can't REALLY expect to continue making huge amounts of money on things that are months and years old. Be reasonable!
  • RE: First Books, then Buzz, then Books again: Google gets sued

    I find Google books to be very useful in helping me to decide which books I may be interested in purchasing. It has helped me to find some obscure books that I would otherwise have been unaware of.

    As far as the photographers' lawsuit--well, photographers tend to think more highly of themselves than they have any right to. They seem to think that what they do is comparable to painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. ;)

    As usual, the only people who will come out ahead in this are the lawyers.
    Improper Username
  • Greed. Pure and simple

    It's amazing how many people today are so greedy that they refuse to move outside their tiny little box. Google is very up front about the distribution of knowledge. If we didn't share knowledge, where would we be today?

    Funny too, since most religions today warn against greed, and state the path to your goals are acheived through giving. So, I figure the most of us are going to Hell.