If you read books, you’ll want to know what Robert Darnton has to say about the pending Google book deal, in Google & the Future of Books – The New York Review of Books. Here’s a teaser:
As an unintended consequence, Google will enjoy what can only be called a monopolyâ€”a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of access to information. Google has no serious competitors. Microsoft dropped its major program to digitize books several months ago, and other enterprises like the Open Knowledge Commons (formerly the Open Content Alliance) and the Internet Archive are minute and ineffective in comparison with Google. Google alone has the wealth to digitize on a massive scale. And having settled with the authors and publishers, it can exploit its financial power from within a protective legal barrier; for the class action suit covers the entire class of authors and publishers. No new entrepreneurs will be able to digitize books within that fenced-off territory, even if they could afford it, because they would have to fight the copyright battles all over again. If the settlement is upheld by the court, only Google will be protected from copyright liability.
A policy change of this magnitude should not be negotiated behind closed doors to the detriment of all purveyors of information but Google.
Commenting in Spiked on the Lessig School of digital piracy enablement, Andrew Orlowski traces the odd course of progressive thought on creativity:
In polite company, sympathy for copyright is in short supply, while for politicians, the â€˜creative economyâ€™ is little more than a platitude. Such attitudes are most deeply held amongst people who consider themselves liberal, forward thinking or progressive.
Which is deeply odd, because for 150 years liberals and progressives have embraced the artistic creator as both an ally and a pathfinder. From William Morrisâ€™ Arts and Crafts movement, to the many schemes devised by postwar social democratic governments, the creator was an aesthetic rebel, a political ally and a visionary, an ethos that owed much to Shelleyâ€™s view of the poet as the â€˜unacknowledged legislatorâ€™. What many of these initiatives had in common was a creatorâ€™s economic independence, typically supported through the mechanism of copyright.
The progressiveâ€™s support of creatorâ€™s rights expressed an optimistic view of society and human nature. But ever since digital utopianism swept through the chattering classes in the early 1990s, this positive view has been replaced by one of misanthropy and paranoia.
At some point you’d hope these expropriators would realize that derivative works of pseudo-creativity can’t flourish without some original material to plagiarize.