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EFF's Concerns About the Google Book Search Settlement

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) notes that the Google Book Search settlement accomplishes a degree of access that litigation might have taken years to develop, but it also observes areas of concern: fair use, innovation, competition, access, public domain and privacy.

Innovation: It seems likely that the “nondisplay uses” of Google’s scanned corpus of text will end up being far more important than anything else in the agreement. Imagine the kinds of things that data mining all the world’s books might let Google’s engineers build: automated translation, optical
character recognition, voice recognition algorithms. And those are just the things we can think of today. Under the agreement, Google has unrestricted, royalty-free access to this corpus. The agreement gives libraries their own copy of the corpus, and allows them to make it available to
“certified” researchers for “nonconsumptive” research, but will that be enough?

Full analysis available at EFF.org

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Comments: 4

  1. > will that be enough?

    no, no, a thousand times no.

    this is _our_ cultural heritage!

    it belongs to _each_ and _every_
    person, now and into the future.

    we _refuse_ to have it be seized!


  2. I’m not a lawyer, but what does ‘”certified” researchers for “nonconsumptive” research”‘ mean?
    Will regular library patrons not qualify for access? Will some body get to certify researchers? Does this mean that extra barriers to the info will be put in place?

  3. Rich,

    Research proposals have to be approved, but “qualified user” is actually defined rather broadly and generously. See Sect. 1.121.

    Non consumptive means simply that the corpus of text is not accessed for display or reading. The settlement proposal states:

    (Sect 1.9) “Non-Consumptive Research” means research in which computational analysis is performed on one or more Books, but not research in which a researcher reads or displays substantial portions of a Book to understand the intellectual content presented within the Book.

    So these are pretty reasonable, in the scheme of things.

  4. peter brantley said:
    > So these are pretty reasonable, in the scheme of things.

    one of the _biggest_ problems with this “settlement”
    is the “experts” who say that it is “pretty reasonable”,
    when in fact it is not reasonable, not in the slightest.

    here, for instance, is the whole of section 1.121,
    which defines a “qualified user”:

    1.121 “Qualified User” means a Person who (a) wishes to conduct Non-
    Consumptive Research, (b) is (i) affiliated with a Fully Participating Library or a
    Cooperating Library or (ii) a suitably qualified individual (1) who has the resources to
    perform such Non-Consumptive Research, (2) who has an affiliation described below,
    (3) who is pre-registered by a Fully Participating Library or a Cooperating Library (i.e.,
    registered prior to conducting Non-Consumptive Research), and (4) for whose use of the
    Research Corpus such Fully Participating Library or Cooperating Library takes
    responsibility, and (c) is bound by an agreement described in Section 7.2(d)(xi)(2)
    (Research Agenda). A for-profit entity may only be a “Qualified User” if both the
    Registry and Google give their prior written consent. Except as set forth in the preceding
    sentence, a Qualified User must have an affiliation with one of the following:
    (a) an accredited United States two (2)- or four (4)-year college or university;
    Settlement Agreement
    (b) a United States not-for-profit research organization, such as a museum,
    observatory or research lab;
    (c) a United States governmental agency (federal, state or local); or
    (d) to the extent that an individual does not come within clauses (a) through
    (c) above in this Section 1.121 (Qualified User), an individual may become a “Qualified
    User” by demonstrating to a Fully Participating Library or a Cooperating Library that he
    or she (directly or through the entities with which he or she is affiliated) has the necessary
    capability and resources to conduct Non-Consumptive Research, provided that such
    individual (or the entities with which he or she is affiliated) may be required by the
    Registry to enter into other terms and conditions with respect to such Non-Consumptive
    Research and the commercial exploitation of any of the results thereof consistent with the
    restrictions set forth in this Settlement Agreement.

    sorry for the formatting. that was copied out of a .pdf,
    which some people seem to think is “state of the art”
    in the field of electronic-publishing, which just goes
    to show how backward this entire field is these days…

    now, if you care to thrash through the “blah blah blah”,
    it’s simple to see that this is _not_ “pretty reasonable”,
    not by any stretch of the imagination. quite a few of
    those clauses could be bent to exclude almost anyone.
    (and the number of researchers who would be included
    in the first place is mostly limited to those in academia.)

    furthermore, research must be “approved” by google.
    it’s also easy to see why this is not “pretty reasonable”.

    do you really think they’re going to allow a company
    to come in and gain knowledge that could lead to a
    “competitive advantage” for that outside entity, or even
    _match_ what google knows? right, i’m sure they will.

    access to the database is tightly controlled by google.

    but what does _that_ mean? it means we have granted
    google a monopoly on innovative use of the database…

    since we have no idea of the _value_ of that database
    at this time — other than to suspect that it is high —
    it would be exceedingly stupid of us to grant them that.

    it’s not just that it’s a bad idea. (really, a terrible idea.)
    it’s that it is _unconscionable_.

    google has already extracted far too much from us
    in the recent past through the use of slick lawyering.
    we have handed over resources of immense value and
    gotten zip in return _except_ restrictions on their use.

    please, let’s not repeat those huge mistakes once again.


    p.s. definitions of “unconscionable”, according to google:

    In the law of contracts, provisions that are oppressive, overreaching or shocking to the conscience.

    conscienceless: lacking a conscience; “a conscienceless villain”; “brash, unprincipled, and conscienceless”; “an unconscionable liar”

    exorbitant: greatly exceeding bounds of reason or moderation; “exorbitant rent”; “extortionate prices”; “spends an outrageous amount on entertainment”; “usurious interest rate”; “unconscionable spending”

    Unconscionability (also known as Unconscientious Dealings) is a term used in contract law to describe a defense against the enforcement of a contract based on the presence of terms unfair to one party. …

    Not conscionable; unscrupulous and lacking principles or conscience; Excessive, imprudent or unreasonable