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

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.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

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.

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