Whether Tim is right or not, he’s certainly notable in putting his money where his mouth is.
Google indexes everything it can on the web, and most of that information is under copyright already, including this web page just by virtue of my posting it. Google indexes my copyrighted information every five days or so, and if I posted every day maybe the Google bots would come around more often.
Now, Google is taking that conceit to the next level by asserting they can index information whether it’s online already or not — don’t forget that with Google Maps they’re also indexing the Earth.
I don’t blame publishers or authors for taking umbrage at Google Library. In fact, I’m sure that it’s almost essential to challenge Google’s stance to the point that the companies who aspire to index “the universe and everything” have some sort of rational limits placed upon how they might profit unfairly from, or decrease sales of, copyrighted works. As Rogers Cadenhead says, “Thank God we have wealthy corporations with high-powered intellectual property lawyers who can answer this question for us.”
But I think that in the longer run, we’re talking about a revolutionary idea that will benefit authors and publishers alike. It’s really an amazing idea, that we can create a repository for all books, isn’t it? No shades of Fahrenheit 451 here. Who knows what long out of print but still under copyright (post 1923) books might be brought to our attention?
Of course, Yahoo has taken advantage of the Google tumult to officially announce their own library index that will, pointedly, focus only on works in the public domain or those with express publisher consent (Tim O’Reilly is here too). The Yahoo effort is also ambitious but much more polite, and is getting much more positive spin from the publishing industry and APA President Patricia Schroeder.