Illegally downloaded… books?

We’ve talked a lot about the copyright issues with music and videos, but haven’t touched on the legal issues of electronically reproduced books. I came across this article about Google Books and its issues with copyright laws. Under their plan to “create the largest library in the history of the world,” Google shows the full text of books old enough to have passed into the public domain, only a few pages of in-print books, and snippets of out-of-print books still covered by copyright laws.

Google Books has been great for readers, but definitely presents a threat to writers and publishers. Any time something can be accessed for free, obviously, sales rates for that product drop. How can Google create this amazing, huge online library for free? And without giving the final push to the tanking publishing industry?

Here’s what they proposed in a law suit settlement they reached with the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers:

“Under the new settlement, Google would allow American users to preview 20 percent of any title it has scanned. Public libraries and universities would enjoy even broader access; users there would be able to see the entire text of any book in the engine. Google will display ads alongside the books, and it will also offer users the chance to buy a digital copy of books they find.”

But this doesn’t solve the problem. How much money will they ┬áreally ┬ábe able to make from this? And how much will writers and publishes be able to make? There are bound to be similar sites that will create their own versions of Google Books, providing competition. I think the process is going to be a lot like what happened, and is happening, with music and videos. There will be copyright issues, there’s no win-win situation, but ultimately books are going to end up online. The question is whether or not the publishing industry will find a way to profit from it.

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