GRRR Google

Posted: October 11th, 2015 under Life beyond writing.
Tags: ,

The local PBS station carries as their secondary station something called, and it had an interview with Eric Schmidt of Google; I saw the last part of it.   Right toward the end, he started bragging on how wonderful Google Books Project was, and how they’d been “litigated to death” (not with their money they weren’t) and how that settlement had been overturned (no doubt with the application of money) and they’d get it all done in time and it was a great service to society.

I was furious, as I have been since Google first violated my copyright with the connivance of university libraries, digitizing all my existing books and short fiction without my permission, without my having a chance to see if their scanning was accurate, and forcing me to spend days working through their labyrinthine system to “claim” my own work and state mark that yes, those were my works and under copyright–but only the books, because they refused to acknowledge that short works in anthologies were *licensed* to the anthology, and individually copyrighted.

I have never objected to libraries lending purchased copies of my work to readers…after all, I made use of libraries all though my childhood and still do.  But copying my work and distributing it without my permission is *publishing,* and violates my copyright.   Google never asked my permission (nor the permission of any of the tens of thousands of authors whose work they digitized)  nor did they make the most cursory search to see if it was in copyright.  In fact, every single work of mine they digitized was copyrighted, all were in print, and all were commercially available…if they had bothered to Google my name and found my website, there was a complete bibliography.  Of course, they offered me no compensation (as publishers must) for the right to copy and distribute the work–they were kept from distributing it by an injunction, but it’s clear they mean to distribute it without any compensation to individual writers.  No permission, no contracts, no compensation.  That’s theft.  It’s my work.  I have a legal right to control copying and distribution.
So I found him on Twitter and sent him several tweets expressing my displeasure and the reason for it.   If suddenly I disappear from sight on Google, you’ll know why.

Meanwhile, their new font it ugly and undistinguished.


  • Comment by Kaye M — October 11, 2015 @ 9:06 pm


    I don’t see how this can be legal. this “great service to society” is outright theft. Do they expect you and all these other authors who make their living with their creative minds to willingly sacrifice what is theirs for this “greater good?”
    I don’t like their new font, either. Totally simplistic. I can’t believe that Google would betray the very principles that brought them success.

  • Comment by Butterwaffle — October 11, 2015 @ 9:47 pm


    I agree with you; Google’s founders all seem to think that everything that can be digitized should be free (at least to them). Ironically, they patented their PageRank search algorithm and have been in prolonged patent wars with Microsoft and others. So they clearly understand that some information has value attached to it… as long as they own it.

    I have been distrustful of them since they first started providing search results because of the way they sell personal information to advertisers and treat privacy as an obstacle instead of a right. It is also disturbing how prevalent they have become and how no one else seems to care when they break the law as long as they provide bread and a circus. So I am sorry they have caused you trouble but glad to see you upset with them, if that makes sense.

  • Comment by Butterwaffle — October 11, 2015 @ 10:03 pm


    Also, I have to say that I **really** appreciate it when your books are DRM-free. Technology changes so rapidly and once-large companies disappear so often that it is both a practical and a moral issue for me. I love having the ability to search text and bring a ton of (e-)books on an airplane with me, but I buy paper rather than DRM-laden e-books. Please don’t Google’s behavior force you into DRM. Thanks!

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 12, 2015 @ 6:26 am


    This is what Schmidt meant by saying they’d been “litigated to death”–author groups, including SFWA, sued them for doing it, and we had a judgment against them…Judge Chin said yes, it was wrong and copyright was inviolable. Unfortunately, they have enough lawyers, money, and political influence to bend the law and another judge overturned that settlement. Their influence on Congress and the Copyright Office (combined with that of others who want access to “content” to drive internet users to their sites and their ads) is such that any copyright at all may not survive. All in the name of the social benefit. There’s a huge amount of stuff that’s easily proven to be out of copyright but they want access to current as well–on the grounds it’s too much trouble–er, too expensive–to stop and find out if someone has the copyright before you steal the content. Of course they see THEIR intellectual property rights as inviolable and they have the lawyers and money to defend it…it’s the individual creators they’re eager to rip off, knowing that individual writers do not have the resources to bar the door.

    I find it easy to believe, first because it’s happened, and second because any time you have individuals owning something that’s become extremely valuable, rich and powerful persons will go for it. Makes me mad as hell, and determined to kick up a continuing fuss, but for most people–the ones who already think writing makes you rich, for instance, and that writers don’t deserve to make money–it’s a non-issue. They haven’t a clue how copyright works, or how much a writer gets per book, and some of them just think anything they want should be free, no matter who goes hungry. That last is how thieves think, of course, and Google, right now, wants it all for nothing.

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 12, 2015 @ 6:32 am


    Google’s bosses are thinking like thieves: what’s mine is mine, but when I want yours is should be mine for free. Because Google is big and powerful and (as Schmidt also said) “should be treated with respect because we’re now as big as other industries.” In other words, respected for being big and rich, not for achieving any actual good. He defines this theft as a social good because more people can access a text, rather than the original social good (nurturing creativity) that copyright was protecting. He pretends that works under copyright are not already widely distributed, by citing extreme cases. It would make just as much sense to support libraries–restore libraries to towns that have closed theirs, add them to towns that don’t–to extend access, but that wouldn’t make Google a profit and allow them to control access themselves.

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 12, 2015 @ 6:44 am


    Here’s something you don’t understand: when a writer licenses a publisher to distribute a work, the writer has no choice in whether or not the e-version is DRM-free or not, any more than the writer has a choice in the dimensions of a hardcover book. A writer often has no say in the cover art (and even if the contract says the author does, actually getting a cover changed is difficult), the paper used, the font used, the design of any ads the publisher takes out, and so on. If you want to protest DRM, protest to the publisher. But understand that the publisher is well aware of the cost of e-piracy (and so are some writers.) DRM may be–in your opinion is–“a practical and moral issue” to you–but theft of content is a practical and moral issue to publishers and many writers as well. It directly affects our ability to keep producing–more acutely with writers, because our profit margin is a lot lower.

  • Comment by Butterwaffle — October 12, 2015 @ 9:30 am


    I am sorry to hear you have so little control over your own work. Is there anything we readers can do to make things better? One of my frustrations with government and large corporate culture is that they are organized to prevent change. 🙁

  • Comment by Jazzlet — October 12, 2015 @ 10:58 am


    This is one of the many reasons that I do not use Google unless other search engines have failed me. My preferred choice is DuckDuckGo which does not log what you have been looking at. Theft of intellectual property is still theft, just like theft of any producer’s product it can and likely will drive the producer out of business when it is on such an epic scale.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — October 12, 2015 @ 2:54 pm


    Same with music. So of the “big” hits of late the artists are getting fractions of mills per song when it’s played. If they get paid at all.

  • Comment by Iphinome — October 12, 2015 @ 8:07 pm


    DRM may be–in your opinion is–“a practical and moral issue” to you–but theft of content is a practical and moral issue to publishers and many writers as well.

    I don’t understand what one has to do with the other?

    DRM locks people who can’t remove it into an ecosystem. Account gets hacked, banned, company goes out of business and the consumer loses access to the content they paid for.

    Last week I bought a new release ebook from a company that gave me a promotional credit, yay discounts. Will they still be around in a year? No idea. Was it DRMed? Yup. If they go away, I’d be expected to buy the book again!

    I won’t have to of course, I stripped the DRM as soon as the file was on my computer, converted it to a different format and loaded it on my kindle. Took about a minute.

    But that’s me. Other people could very well be in a bind and forced to buy the book again later. Maybe publisher’s like the idea of selling the same thing to the same person over and over. Certainly the record industry was pushing that agenda back in the 90’s; telling people they were somehow evil pirates for ripping CDs that they bought and loading them onto their ipods. Did that approach stop pirates?

    Pirates were not inconvenienced. I was though, I had to take the extra 30 seconds to strip the DRM. Poor Butterwaffle might have been stuck.

    A practical and moral issue if I ever heard one.

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — October 12, 2015 @ 8:34 pm


    The Authors’ Guild appealed the (mostly) adverse result in U.S. District Court. Oral argument was late in 2014. There should be a decision sometime soon that might sort out some of Google’s “fair use” claims.

  • Comment by elizabeth — October 12, 2015 @ 11:08 pm


    What is has to do with it…where can I start. Publishers were looking for a way to keep e-books from being immediately put on torrent sites and handed out free, or bundled and sold that way, without any remittance to the writer or the publisher who had done the work of getting them into shape. So they picked the wrong way, but they had a reason for trying to do something to stop the process.

    The publishers are not out to “sell the same book to the same person over and over.” They are out to sell copies. They would prefer to sell one copy to everyone who wants to read it, but understand (in the old system) that libraries and used bookstores allow people who can’t afford new books–or perhaps have contempt for writers and publishers–to read books for free. Yes, they have to wait and not read it the first day–but it’s available. There’s an enormous difference between a library buying two copies and lending them out dozens of times, and buying one copy, making more copies, and selling those…and yes, that has happened and is still happening…that’s a massive leak in their (and my) income. If you are buying from some company other than the publisher (you didn’t say publisher, so I’m not sure) and that entity put DRM on their product, then it’s that company you should blame. Not me. Not the publisher. Since I don’t have an e-reader and thus don’t buy e-books, I don’t know how the process works–you’ve explained part of it, but not why “the company” (Amazon? Another source?) is going out of business so often. Amazon’s still there. (I don’t like Amazon: I don’t like that they bully publishers by refusing to sell that publisher’s authors’ books, or delaying releases. Harming authors is not ever going to make me happy.) It sounds like the process of obtaining e-books is fraught with difficulties of one kind and another (I know that Amazon was able to yank content from people who’d paid for it.)

    But I’ve bought multiple copies of paper books because I lost one, or it got damaged…I don’t feel entitled to a free replacement in that case. I’ve bought three copies of Yarn Harlot’s Knitting Rules, for instance. Loaned one out to someone who was sick, it never came back, and the couple is now divorced. Bought another on a trip and left it on the train by accident the next day. It doesn’t make me mad that I had to buy it more than once; it’s made me more careful with the third. Granted, nobody but a thief can take it from me, as Amazon has done (and, apparently this ephemeral company you say won’t be there next year.)

    I don’t see that a 30-second or one minute inconvenience to you is a moral issue. Or a practical one, since it’s that easy. I do see that having your book yanked off your device is unfair (and thus a moral issue) so if DRM is the sole reason that’s possible, then the one-minute hassle to remove it is worthwhile. But from my point of view, unless something is done to stem the theft of content–by Google itself or torrent sites or any new scheme that comes up to steal from writers–it will be harder–eventually impossible–for most writers to make a living at it, no matter how fast and how hard they work–except as corporate drones working for Google or the equivalent. Only those who have the skills, the time, the energy to both self-publish and crowd-fund ahead of letting anyone see the work (because as soon as it’s uploaded, it’s pirated: that’s the reality) will be able to make it. Many excellent writers lack any or some of those qualifications. Everything but writing takes time from writing.

    So there IS a conflict between those who do the work to write books and produce books, and those who–once they know a book exists–believe they should have instant, cheap (or costless) and permanent access to it no matter what. The technology, as Google notes, provides the technical ability to produce endless copies at very low cost, once someone else has written the text, edited it, formatted it for digital use. The ease of making copies suggests to some users that every other part of the product is equally effortless and therefore undeserving of reward…or only minimal reward. Those who are actually doing the work see their contributions devalued and themselves disrespected. Certainly theft of copyright has happened before–Tolkein influenced me (and many other fans of his) to be more aware of whether a book was in fact the authorized edition of a work, or a pirated edition. Back then, in the ’60s, in part because his work was so popular, public sentiment was on his side. Copyright was understood, as it had been intended, as protection for the creator so that he or she could afford to do such risky work, and the work then might benefit the larger society. But with the digital revolution, that understanding has been carefully eroded–not so much by individuals, as by organizations who will profit from the erosion of copyright’s protection, enabling them to treat individual creations as “content” to be used however they wish.

    But now it’s after midnight and my brain turns off (unless I’m writing fiction, and much of the time then) when the numbers tick over. Bed is calling.

  • Comment by David Temple — October 13, 2015 @ 12:16 am


    I noticed the other day that once Google became “Alphabet”, that the corporate motto of “Don’t Be Evil” landed in the dust bin -perhaps an acknowledgement of their corruption and abandonment of ethics (they left morality in the gutter ages ago.)

  • Comment by Kathleen — October 13, 2015 @ 2:36 pm


    May the authors win the appeal! I understand that artists need to be paid for their work.

  • Comment by Butterwaffle — October 13, 2015 @ 7:42 pm


    > Since I don’t have an e-reader and thus
    > don’t buy e-books, I don’t know how the
    > process works–you’ve explained part of it,
    > but not why “the company” (Amazon? Another
    > source?) is going out of business so often.

    It is not that it happens often, but rather that if it were to happen once after my having invested a significant amount of money in e-books from that distributor, then I would suddenly need to repurchase all of those books. That is rather different than losing a few here and there to water damage or grabby relatives, and more like a house fire. Would insurance cover a large collection of e-books lost because Adobe or Amazon or Apple or the Marlin Trust Management Organization decided to leave the market? Would these titles be available for purchase in some other format when it happened?

    I am not claiming that readers should have absolute, in-perpetuity access across all revisions of a work, but given the rate at which software and hardware changes, it seems unwise to purchase things of value that cannot be accessed without cooperation from a third party. I do not see any of the companies going out of business in the short term, but in the long term I can see how the epub format might be replaced with a newer format that has compelling new features. Readers would support both for a while and then would not (VHS/DVD/BluRay as a hardware example, Adobe Flash/HTML5 as a software example). The “failure modes” for e-books are very different than the physical books we are used to.

    As far as the exact process for e-book preparation and distribution, I do not know the process for all distributors, but do know how Apple works because of the free iBooks Author software they provide under these conditions:

    In their model, the publisher (who may also be the author since Apple does not require representation by an established publisher) is responsible for creating the e-book and submitting it (with or without DRM applied – there is a checkbox in the software’s “publish” dialog) to Apple for distribution.

    > If you are buying from some company other
    > than the publisher (you didn’t say publisher,
    > so I’m not sure) and that entity put DRM on
    > their product, then it’s that company you
    > should blame.

    It is not a matter of blame; either there is a format that all the parties involved (author, reader, publisher) find acceptable, which leads to a sale. Or there is not and I do without that book.

    I don´t know how to solve theft problem but DRM doesn´t really work – one of the top hits I found when searching for the name of Apple´s software was a technique for stripping DRM from purchased books – and DRM does really put readers over a barrel in the long term. It may be unpopular to say, but without Christianity as a shared moral concensus in this country (not as externally-imposed behavior but as an internal choice made by most people), I do not see theft decreasing.

    I am all for supporting authors, for the corporate death penalty when a company’s management willfully and routinely breaks the law – Google-sized or not, and even for your right to choose DRM or not; I just asked you not to let Google to bully you into DRM because I was under the mistaken impression you had some control over that decision; DRM is potentially one way to stop Google and others in the short term, but I think it has many unfortunate side effects. Sorry if I have upset you.

  • Comment by Iphinome — October 13, 2015 @ 11:00 pm


    Uhg, there are allies I won’t accept.

    *drops her sword in the dirt*

  • Comment by Mike D — October 16, 2015 @ 2:46 pm



    Links to the Reuters and AP stories

    Full text of judgement later

    “Google’s unauthorized digitizing of copyright-protected works, creation of a search functionality and display of snippets from those works are non-infringing fair uses,”

    U.S. Circuit Judge Pierre Leval wrote on behalf of the court. “The purpose of the copying is highly transformative, the public display of text is limited and the revelations do

    (these are all ‘fair use’ precedents).

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment