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Books are the most traditional of all copyrightable works. Copyright as a legal institution was developed particularly for protecting authors and publishers of books. Over the years, copyrights have been granted to creators of all kinds of works, ranging from music over films to software. While most of these other types of copyrighted works are strongly affected by new forms of content production and distribution in the course of the so-called “digital revolution”, books seem to have been relatively immune to the very same technological changes – at least until Google started with the mass digitization of books and Amazon launched its increasingly popular e-book-reader “Kindle” (see “Google Books and the Kindle Controversy: Merging Conflict Arenas?“).

Especially Google Book Search (GBS) has inspired intense controversies between supporters, painting the highly optimistic picture of universal access to all books ever published for virtually everybody, and adversaries, fearing the rise of a knowledge monopolist, who exploits authors, publishers and readers alike. The best and most comprehensive comparison of both lines of argumentation I have encountered so far is a recent piece by Berkeley’s Pamela Samuelson titled “Google Book Search and the Future of Books in Cyberspace” (PDF).

After identifying overly restrictive copyright as the major impediment for any mass digitization project, Samuelson turns to the pros and cons of the GBS settlement in its current, amended version. As optimistic predictions she lists the following: Read the rest of this entry »

Recent copyright conflicts around Google Book Search (see a NYT article) and Google’s video platform YouTube (see another NYT article) independently of one another received a lot of media attention but have not been discussed jointly. This is surprising, not only because in both conflicts Google is under attack but also because both cases have several patterns in common:

First, Google Book Search and YouTube are both tools for making copyrighted material more easily accessible for users. Thereby, Google represents a new type of intermediary between creators and consumers, as they have repeatedly emerged alongside technological change. And as the example of radio broadcasting in the early 20th century demonstrates (see pp. 73ff. in Lessig 2001, PDF), the role and regulation of such new intermediaries is a highly contingent negotiation process. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
August 2020

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