“Somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25 million books and nobody is allowed to read them.”
There’s actually a long tradition of technology companies disregarding intellectual-property rights as they invent new ways to distribute content.
An advocacy group called the Authors Guild, and several book authors, filed a class action lawsuit against Google on behalf of everyone with a U.S. copyright interest in a book. (A group of publishers filed their own lawsuit but joined the Authors Guild class action shortly thereafter.) … it was “perhaps the most adventuresome class action settlement ever attempted.”
The DOJ objections left the settlement in a double bind: Focus the deal on Google and you get accused of being anticompetitive. Try to open it up and you get accused of stretching the law governing class actions. The lawyers who had crafted the settlement tried to thread the needle.
Many of the objectors indeed thought that there would be some other way to get to the same outcome without any of the ickiness of a class action settlement. A refrain throughout the fairness hearing was that releasing the rights of out-of-print books for mass digitization was more properly “a matter for Congress.” … Of course, nearly a decade later, nothing of the sort has actually happened.
People have been trying to build a library like this for ages—to do so, they’ve said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time—and here we’ve done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it’s 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they’re the ones responsible for locking it up.