Thursday, 6 November 2008

More on Google v AAP

Following on from my earlier post about the settlement between Google and the AAP I read an interesting analysis of this from Fred von Lohmann at the EFF. Take a read yourself.

Two areas of particular interest to me are the impact on the doctrine of fair use (the U.S. equivalent of fair dealing) and the impact on privacy. Fred’s analysis covers both of these with notable paragraphs being:

...this outcome is plainly second-best from the point of view of those who believe Google would have won the fair use question at the heart of the case. A legal ruling that scanning books to provide indexing and search is a fair use would have benefited the public by setting a precedent on which everyone could rely, thus limiting publishers' control over the activities of future book scanners. In contrast, only Google gets to rely on this settlement agreement, and the agreement embodies many concessions that a fair user shouldn't have to make."
(For a short analysis of Google’s Fair Use argument see this EFF posting from back in 2005)
Privacy: The agreement apparently envisions a world where Google keeps all of the electronic books that you "purchase" on an "electronic shelf" for you. In other words, in order to read the books you've paid for, you have to log into Google. Google is also likely to keep track of which books you browse (at least if you're logged in). This is a huge change in the privacy we traditionally enjoy in libraries and bookstores, where nobody writes down "Fred von Lohmann entered the store at 19:42:08 and spent 2.2 minutes on page 28 of 0-486-66980-7, 3.1 minutes on page 29, and 2.8 minutes on page 30." If Google becomes the default place to search, browse, and buy books, it will be able to keep unprecedented track of what you read, how you read it, and collate that with all the other information it has about you. Does the agreement contain ironclad protections for user privacy?

What are your thoughts on the impact of this settlement for future users?