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Googlization of Everything and the Future of Copyright

Googlization of Everything and the Future of Copyright

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Published by: mediumbrowngirl on Apr 23, 2012
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1207
 
The Googlization of Everything andthe Future of Copyright
Siva Vaidhyanathan
*
 Based on an explicit rejection of the “revolutionary” claims thatsupporters have put forth in favor of full-text searching of centuries of books sitting in American university libraries, this Article argues that thelegal challenges to Google’s plans to digitize millions of copyrighted books from university libraries are likely to succeed, thus hampering other, potentially more valuable public indexes and digitization processes. Inaddition, the assertions that Google and its supporters have made aboutthe legality and potential benefits of the Google Book Search service arecounterproductive to the maintenance of a healthy and open informationecosystem. The Google case is the most potentially disruptive copyrightbattle since the invention of sound recording technology. It strikes at thevery heart of the copyright system and reveals that we tend to rely on therickety structure of fair use to support too many essential public values.
 
Google’s Library Project threatens to unravel everything that is good and
*
Associate Professor of Culture and Communication, New York University. Imust thank the following people for engaging me in deep and extended conversationon this topic in the preparation for this draft: Oren Bracha, Tony Reese, CoryDoctorow, Fred von Lohmann, Michael Madison, Lawrence Lessig, Laura Gasaway,Georgia Harper, Niko Pfund, Eric Zinner, Carol Mandel, Howard Besser, LauraQuilter, Jack Bernard, Farhad Manjoo, Alexander Macgillivray, Steve Maikowski,Carlos Ovalle, Liz Losh, Michael Zimmer, Aaron Swartz, Donna Wentworth, Peter Jaszi, Robert Boynton, Lawrence Weschler, Melissa Henriksen, Sam Howard-Spink,Richard Rogers, Jonathan Band, Robert Kasunic, Patricia Schroeder, Alan Adler, SamTrosow, Catherine Collins, Chris Lydon, James Neal, Jessica Litman, Susan Douglas,and Helen Nissenbaum. Versions and portions of this work appeared as talksdelivered to the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Library Association, theUniversity of Texas School of Law, a meeting of the Washington, D.C. CopyrightSociety, the Department of Culture and Communication at New York University, theSweetwater Writing Center at the University of Michigan, Emory University Libraries,and the Swiss Technical University in Zurich. An early version of these argumentsappeared in Siva Vaidhyanathan,
 A Risky Gamble with Google
, C
HRON
.
 
H
IGHER
E
DUC
.(Wash. D.C.), Dec. 2, 2005.
 
 
1208
University of California, Davis
[Vol. 40:1207
stable about the copyright system. It injects more uncertainty and panicinto a system that is already in disequilibrium.
T
ABLE OF
C
ONTENTS
 I
NTRODUCTION
.................................................................................1209I. T
HE
B
ASICS OF
G
OOGLE
B
OOK
S
EARCH
...................................1215
 A. Privacy
............................................................................1219
 B. Privatization
....................................................................1220
 C. Property
..........................................................................1221
 
II. T
HE
A
RGUMENTS FOR
G
OOGLE
...............................................1222III. P
RAGMATISM OR
F
UNDAMENTALISM
?.....................................1225IV. A
 
L
APSE INTO
L
EGAL
R
EALISM
................................................1226V. W
HY
Q
UALITATIVE
F
ACTORS
M
ATTER
....................................1227VI. T
HE
T
RUMP
C
ARD
:
 
T
HE
L
IBRARY
C
OPY
..................................1229C
ONCLUSION
.....................................................................................1230
 
 
2007]
The Googlization of Everything
1209I
NTRODUCTION
 In May 2006,
Wired
magazine contributor Kevin Kelly published in
The New York Times Magazine
his predictive account of flux andchange within the book-publishing world. In that article Kellyoutlined what he claimed “will” (not “might” or “could” — “will”)happen to the book business and the practices of writing and readingunder a new regime fostered by Google’s plot to scan in millions of books and offer searchable texts to Internet users.“So what happens when all the books in the world become a singleliquid fabric of interconnected words and ideas?,” Kelly asked.First, works on the margins of popularity will find a smallaudience larger than the near-zero audience they usually havenow. . . . Second, the universal library will deepen our graspof history, as every original document in the course of civilization is scanned and cross-linked. Third, the universallibrary of all books will cultivate a new sense of authority.”
1
 Kelly sees the linkages of text to text, book to book, page to page,and passage to passage as the answer to the knowledge gaps that havemade certain people winners and others losers. Kelly wrote:If you can truly incorporate all texts — past and present,multilingual — on a particular subject then you can have aclearer sense of what we as a civilization, a species, do knowand don’t know. The white spaces of our collective ignoranceare highlighted, while the golden peaks of our knowledge aredrawn with completeness. This degree of authority is onlyrarely achieved in scholarship today, but it will becomeroutine.”
2
 Such heady, passionate predictions of technological revolution havebecome so common, so accepted in our techno-fundamentalistculture, that even when John Updike criticized Kelly’s vision in anessay published a month later in
The New York Times Book Review
, hedid not doubt that Kelly’s universal digital library would somedaycome to pass. Updike just lamented it, musing about how wonderfulhis old bookstore haunts were for him and everyone else who strolledthe streets of New York, Oxford, or Boston in the 1950s.
3
Updike’s
1
Kevin Kelly,
Scan This Book!
, N.Y.
 
T
IMES
, May 14, 2006, § 6 (Magazine), at 42.
2
Id.
 
3
See
 John Updike,
The End of Authorship
, N.Y.
 
T
IMES
, June 25, 2006, § 7 (Sunday

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