Sep 26, 2005

Lawrence Lessig on the Battle between Google and the Authors Guild

From Lawrence Lessig:
"Google has been sued by the Authors Guild, and a number of individual authors. This follows similar threats hinted at by the American Association of Publishers. The authors and the publishers consider Google’s latest fantastic idea, Google Print — a project to Google-ize 20,000,000 books — to be “massive copyright infringement.” They have asked a federal court to shut Google Print down.

It is 1976 all over again. [Sony Corp v. Universal City Studios] Then, like now, content owners turned to the courts to stop an extraordinary new technology. Then, like now, copyright is the weapon of choice. But then, like now, the content owners of course don’t really want the court to stop the new technology. Then, like now, they simply want to be paid for the innovations of someone else. Then, like now, the content owners ought to lose.

This is the best case to illustrate the story I told at the start of Free Culture. Property law since time immemorial had held that your land reached from the ground to the heavens. Then airplanes were invented — a technology oblivious to this ancient law. A couple of farmers sued to enforce their ancient rights — insisting airplanes can’t fly over land without their permission. And thus the Supreme Court had to decide whether this ancient law — much older than the law of copyright — should prevail over this new technology.

The Supreme Court’s answer was perfectly clear: Absolutely not. “Common sense revolts at the idea,” Justice Douglas wrote. And with that sentence, hundreds of years of property law was gone, and the world was a much wealthier place."

Visit Lessig Blog for the complete post. Oyez has the Oral arguments for the Betamax case available at their site.

2 comments:

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