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Microsoft slams Google Book Search

Google 'violates copright' & 'deprives authors'

A Microsoft attorney will attack Google's book search service in a speech today 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 monetising their works," Rubin said in a copy of the speech posted on the website 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 unauthorised copying and future monetisation 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 copyrighted 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 copyrighted material as proof of that. "Anyone who visits YouTube, which Google purchased last year, will immediately recognise that it follows a similar cavalier approach to copyright," said Rubin.

Google did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The US Copyright Office defines ‘fair use’ on its website 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."


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