Microsoft hits Google over book search model

Google accused of misappropriating principles of fair use under copyright laws to further its own business model

A Microsoft attorney will attack Google's book search service in a speech Tuesday to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), saying Google is misappropriating principles of fair use to further its own business model.

Thomas Rubin, Microsoft's associate general counsel, will address the AAP's annual meeting in New York, stating that while Microsoft's Live Search Books honours copyright protection and fair use, Google's Book Search abuses it.

"In my view, Google has chosen the wrong path for the longer term, because it systematically violates copyright and deprives authors and publishers of an important avenue for monetizing their works," Rubin said in a copy of the speech posted on the Web site of The Wall Street Journal. Rubin also addressed the issue in a commentary written for Monday's edition of The Financial Times.

"Google defends its actions primarily by arguing that its unauthorized copying and future monetization of your books are protected as fair use," the speech says.

At issue is Microsoft's contention that Google has taken the position that it may scan, catalogue and display content published in book form under fair use principles unless the copyright right holders tells them not to. Rubin also says in his speech that Google then profits from material to which it does not own the copyright by running advertising along with it. He says that Microsoft seeks and receives permission from all publishers of copyright material before including it among titles that can be searched.

A search for Ernest Hemingway's novel "The Old Man and the Sea" on Google Book Search brought up no ads on the results page, but inserted one ad below four pages of scanned text.

In contrast, Microsoft's Live Search Books, currently being beta-tested, brought up only one title in its search results, a book called "Search and Struggle for Quality and Independence," which cites Hemingway's tale as a reference. No advertising appears on the results page or the book's page.

Rubin calls Google's attitude towards copyright protection "weak at best" and cites accusations levelled at Google-owned YouTube over failure to remove copyright material as proof of that. "Anyone who visits YouTube, which Google purchased last year, will immediately recognize that it follows a similar cavalier approach to copyright," said Rubin.

From Google's perspective, "the goal of search engines, and of products like Google Book Search and YouTube, is to help users find information from content producers of every size," said David Drummond, Google senior vice president for corporate development and chief legal officer, in an e-mail request for comment.

"We do this by complying with international copyright laws, and the result has been more exposure and in many cases more revenue for authors, publishers and producers of content." he said. "In the publishing industry alone, we work with more than 10,000 partners around the world to make their works discoverable online, and in video, we recently added new partners. ... We look forward to working with even more partners to make more content discoverable online."

The U.S. Copyright Office defines "fair use" on its Web site as: "quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported."

(Steve Lawson of the IDG News Service in San Francisco contributed to this story.)

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Steven Schwankert

IDG News Service
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