Print that comes across the Internet is not as trustworthy as print that one buys in a store or picks up in a library. Such print is more difficult to obtain and more expensive, but it is more real. The books that Google intends to scan may be adulterated. I think that is a problem. Undoubtedly the Internet is here to stay and will increasingly be used to convey print, but it has its problems. In the case of Google there is the other problem of not compensating publishers and authors for their work. Both have intellectual property rights that must be respected if publishing and writing are to continue as profitable endeavors.
Google proposes to scan and make available great chunks of books for free. It might be one thing to make books from the public domain, say Shakespeare or Chaucer, free. But it is a kind of pilfering to lift work that is copyrighted. Google claims that it is only doing on a vast scale what libraries do on a small scale. Yet there is a difference. Google is a commercial enterprise, a library is not. Google is making a profit from ill-gotten material.
There is a way that the interests of both sides in this squabble can be resolved. In the Napster controversy musicians were being ripped off when their fans were uploading their music and distributing it freely. The musicians and their representatives fought this infringement of copyright and now get fair compensation via iTunes and similar arrangements. Doubtless this wondrous thing called Google will arrive at a similar arrangement. Yet for now there is a legal battle and only the lawyers can be happy.
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