The Ethics of Private Property: Google & the Courts

Debra Law
Reply Fri 28 Oct, 2005 03:14 pm
Foxfyre wrote:
Debra wrote
According to what you just said, if copyright laws make it "illegal to take other's property for one's own benefit," this is FINE.

???? What do you mean? Do you think that copyright laws should make it legal to take other's property for one's own benefit?

I was commenting on YOUR statements that advocated judicial activism.

I will explain again so you will understand:

Foxfyre wrote:
I think copyright law is based on the principle of the owners' right to control their property. It is (or should be) illegal to take other's property for one's own benefit. This is the principle I see at play here. If the Copyright Act covers it, then fine. Let's hope the judge(s) see that. If it does not, then the judge can still rule on the higher principle of rights of owners to their own property.

You are announcing you are "fine" with federal copyright laws if those laws protect the copyright owner in the manner you desire.

You are announcing, if federal copyright laws do NOT protect the copyright owner in the manner you desire, then you want the judge to ignore the law, substitute his own judgment for that of the legislature's judgment, and rule upon "higher principles." You are encouraging "judicial activism," which is the very evil you that you allegedly abhor.

Even though copyright laws may affect your interest in your own creative work, so long as copyright laws are rationally related to a legitimate government interest (promoting the arts and sciences), copyright laws are constitutional. So long as the copyright laws are constitutional, our courts do not have the power (in the pursuit of "higher principles") to ignore the laws enacted by Congress and substitute the (unelected) judgment of judges for the (elected) judgment of Congress
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Debra Law
Reply Fri 28 Oct, 2005 04:13 pm
Foxfyre wrote:
Thomas: from the opening post that started this thread:

. . . .Consider the ongoing battle between Google and the U.S. publishing industry over whether Google can, in the name of making searchable information available to the public, ignore copyright law and make an author’s work available through its search engine, regardless of the author’s wishes and without paying royalties for doing so.

This is the part that I am debating.

Your debate ASSUMES that Google is ignoring copyright law--it assumes a fact that has yet to be proven.

At this point in time, Google's use of a copyright owner's work in its library program is merely ALLEGED to be in violation of federal copyright laws. Neither you nor I are in possession of all the relevant facts and circumstances that would allow us to objectively apply the relevant law to the relevant facts and circumstances and speculate concerning the outcome of the litigation.

If it is proven that Google is violating the law, Google will be held accountable in a court of law and the copyright owners will be entitled to remedies and damages allowed by law.

That you and Debra agree on the fine ponts of the origins and content of the Copyright Law is wonderful and I commend you. I have already admitted I have no expertise to join in that discussion and, frankly, I am not interested in doing so if I had that expertise. That also is not at all what I have been arguing. Now you can nitpick the words I use and make the discussion about my incompetence. Or we can discuss the issue of principles of property that was the intent of this thread.

It is very difficult to engage in a discussion concerning judicial protection of an owner's copyright without any reference to the actual copyright law that applies. Inasmuch as you're not interested in applying real life legal principles but would rather discuss the principles of property as you imagine them to be, you have rendered it impossible to discuss this topic within the confines of any logical parameters.

How do you know that a judge will not rule in favor of Google on this issue? Do you have some clairvoyant abilities that the rest of us lack?

See my posts above. Copyright laws do not allow an alleged copyright infringer to post anything an alleged infringer pleases on the internet.

Therefore, we can say with absolute certainty (no special abilities necessary) that no judge would ever rule that Google can post whatever it pleases without first obtaining permission from the owners of the intellectual property. A judge would rule that Google may only post what is allowed to be posted by law. Therefore, your doomsday predictions about a judge making such a ridiculous ruling contrary to the law are akin to the little red hen running around and warning everyone that the sky is falling.

Locke taught that individual property, along with life and liberty, was a natural right. The purpose of government, according to Locke, is the preservation of natural rights. It follows that since the ownership of property is a natural right, the state, in the taking of it through taxation without the consent of those taxed, does so by breaching one of the three fundamental rights: the right to life, the right to liberty, and the right to property.

Locke believed that all persons were entitled to their share of nature's bounty of berries as was necessary for their survival and no more. Locke abhored waste as a transgression against the common good. Locke believed that it was within the political power of the state to regulate property for the common good. It is upon the consent of the governed that Congress regulates intellectual property by granting copyright owners a bundle of exclusive rights subject to specified limitations and exceptions to promote the arts and sciences for the common good. I am unable to discern any merits to an argument that Congressional regulation of intellectual property through copyright laws somehow deprives a copyright owner of his property without due process of law.

And you know me, Foxfyre. If I discovered an arbitrary governmental deprivation of life, liberty, or property, I would be the first one to complain. In my opinion, copyright laws provide copyright owners with substantial protection and I am confident that our courts will protect copyright owners to fullest extent of law in the Google litigation. If Google is engaging in unfair use of the copyright owners' works in violation of the law, I have no doubt that our courts will provide the copyright owners with appropriate remedies and damages.

I think we should give our courts a fair opportunity to do their job with respect to the Google litigation before we rush to condemn for perceived injustices that have not yet occurred and may never occur.

FoxFyre wrote:
There was no copyright law in Locke's time. But would he see copyright law as pertinent to the principle of the natural right to property? I definitely believe he would.

Protection of intellectual property dates back several centuries. Did you check the link that Thomas provided to the "Founders Constitution?" Locke would consider intellectual property rights to be within the political power of government to regulate.
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Reply Thu 3 Nov, 2005 08:10 am
I agree with some of Debra's points and admire her expertise in presenting them. I don't agree that she always accurately concludes what I think or mean. I have already admitted I am not qualified to debate fine points of copyright law. I am, however, quite qualified to debate issues of right and wrong where private property is concerned. And I do not have the confidence in the courts to do the right thing that Debra usually holds. (Then again, Debra, you and I have been on the same side of an issue or two where we both felt the court screwed up.)

This issue is not going away:

Reining in Google
By Pat Schroeder/Bob Barr
November 3, 2005

You're probably reading the byline above and wondering, "What could these two, from opposite sides of the aisle in Congress, possibly have in common with each other?"

The answer is when it comes to Google's Print Library Project we have much in common: We're both authors and both believe intellectual property should actually mean something.

And so we find ourselves joining together to fight a $90 billion company bent on unilaterally changing copyright law to their benefit and in turn denying publishers and authors the rights granted to them by the U.S. Constitution.

Internet behemoth Google, plans to launch their Library project in November. It plans to scan the entire contents of the Stanford, Harvard and University of Michigan libraries and make what it calls "snippets" of the works available online, for free.

The creators and owners of these copyrighted works will not be compensated, nor has Google defined what a "snippet" is: a paragraph? A page? A chapter? A whole book? Meanwhile Google will gain a huge new revenue stream by selling ad space on library search results. Selling ads on its search engine is how Google makes 99 percent of its billions.

Not only is Google trying to rewrite copyright law, it is also crushing creativity. If publishers and authors have to spend all their time policing Google for works they have already written, it is hard to create more. Our laws say if you wish to copy someone's work, you must get their permission. Google wants to trash that.

Google's position essentially amounts to a license to steal, so long as it returns the loot upon a formal request by their victims. This is precisely why Google's argument has no basis in U.S. intellectual property law or jurisprudence. Just because Google is huge, it should not be allowed to change the law.

Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt has argued the "fair use" provision in copyright law allows Google to scan copyrighted books and put them on their Web site without seeking permission. He compares this to someone at home taping a television show and watching it later. Taped TV show are watched in millions of households every night and is quite legal; rebroadcasting that show to make a buck is not.

Next time Dr. Schmidt watches television, he should keep his ears open for the common disclaimer "rebroadcast of this program without the express written consent of" the broadcaster is "prohibited." Google's plans are tantamount to the same thing, profiting from someone else's work without permission. It isn't up to the broadcaster to track down someone profiting from their work, why should it be up to publishers and authors to do so?

Authors may be the first targets in Google's drive to make the intellectual property of others a cost-free inventory for delivery of its ad content, but we will hardly be the last. Media companies, engineering firms, software designers, architects, scientists, manufacturers, entertainers and professional services firms all produce products that could easily be considered for "fair use" by Google.

Google envisions a world in which all content is free; and of course, it controls the portal through which Internet user's access that content. It would completely devalue everyone else's property and massively increase the value of its own.

The company contends it will allow authors of copyrighted works to "opt-out" of the free online library by notifying Google they don't want their works online. Most authors and publishers do not know who bought their books. And have you ever tried to get a live person on the phone at an Internet company?

And so, five publishing companies on behalf of the entire publishing industry and the Author's Guild have filed two major lawsuits against Google seeking to stop this plan and deter such conduct in the future.

Politically, we may not agree on much. But on this, we can both agree: These lawsuits are needed to halt theft of intellectual property. To see it any other way is intellectually dishonest.

Pat Schroeder is president of the Association of American Publishers and a former member of Congress from Colorado. Bob Barr, a former member of the House Judiciary Committee, is an author, newspaper columnist and analyst for CNN.
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Debra Law
Reply Thu 10 Nov, 2005 12:52 pm
Google Print -- Library Project

. . . Our ultimate goal is to work with publishers and libraries to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages that helps users discover new books and publishers find new readers.

What does an in-copyright book in Google Print look like?

If you are in the United States and you search for Books and Culture by Hamilton Wright Mabie, for instance, you'll be able to page through as much of it as you like, because its 1896 copyright means it's now in the public domain in the United States. These public domain books look very similar to publisher-submitted books except you will be able to click through all the pages of the book.

A book such as the 1924 True Stories of Pioneer Life by Mary C. Moulton, on the other hand, may still be in copyright in the United States, and we treat it as such. So, when you preview it on Google Print, you'll only see snippets of text directly around your search term. This snippet view is designed to help users find the book in their search results and make a decision about whether to go find a physical copy of the book with just bibliographic information and a few short sentences around their search query.

Copyright analysis:
0 Replies
Reply Fri 11 Nov, 2005 09:31 am
So either Jonathan Band is right or those filing suit are right. It will be interesting to watch the outcome.
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