Lessig on the Google lawsuits

Lawrence Lessig has posted a presentation of his arguments on the Google lawsuits. If you don’t want to spend 30 minutes watching it, here’s a quick summary. First, read my post from last October on the subject (back then, Google Book Search was called Google Print).

What Lessig adds in this discussion is some relevant case background. Google’s opponents claim that what Google is doing is similar to the MP3.com case from a few years ago, where the courts found that MP3.com’s copying of 50,000 CDs to the Internet so they could allow people who owned copies of those CDs to listen to them anywhere was a violation of fair use.

Google’s supporters prefer to rely on the more recent case involving Arriba Soft generating thumbnails of images to enable online searching. Lessig argues that Google Book Search is more like the case of Arriba Soft (or Google Image search), where creating thumbnail images (or low-res book scans) is considered fair use.

Finally, Lessig appeals to common sense. After all, if Google Book Search is illegal, then wouldn’t a standard Google Web search be illegal, too? All Google Web search does is make copies of web pages and index them on its own servers, just like Google Book Search does with books. You can’t have one without the other, so take your pick: a world without book indexing and web indexing, or with both. I think I’d prefer a world with both.

Lessig makes some other impressive arguments in his presentation, so if you’ve got the time, the whole thing is worth a watch.

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