The debate between publishers and authors and Google and its allies held last night at the New York Public Library was heated, sometimes contentious and mostly civil, and even produced a point on which all sides agreed–that they are miles apart on what they view as fair use in the 21st century.
AAP’s Allan Adler said if Google’s theory of fair use was adopted, it would put Google in control of other people’s content that it downloaded onto its own databases. While Google says it will use the scanned book content in a limited way, that could all change, Adler said.
Google v-p of corporate development David Drummond said Google Book Search was designed with fair use in mind and not to harm publishers. If the company ever goes beyond the bounds of fair use, other copyright protections would kick in, Drummond said, to which Adler quickly responded “that’s why we went to court.”
The definitions of “fair use,” “free content,” and “rights” in the publishing industry have been constantly shifting this past decade as technology advances and as more and more distance is put between our times and the advent of the Gutenberg press. This fight began with the literary agents in the 1990s over the “rights” of “electronic files,” and thereby effectively putting an end to the term of “out of print.” With the development of “print on demand” technologies, no book will ever again be “out of print.” Will this debate now put an end to “copyrights,” or will some music-industry-type middle ground be adopted?