The Pot Calling the Kettle Black
This snippet from the Washington Post was so interesting I had to drop in an offer a comment:
“Allan Adler, the vice president for legal and government affairs for the Association of American Publishers, [shakes] his head at what he sees as the breathtaking arrogance of” Google’s Book Search project.
A bit of context here is in order. The quote comes from an article published in yesterday’s Washington Post, sort of an update on the Google Book Search project. As is the case with this issue, the Post predictably interviews all the usual suspects: including Google executives (who won’t talk about the project because of its proprietary nature, yet still manage to talk about it to keep the project in the press); and publishing industry flaks (all of whom talk about how great Google Book Search would be if only Google would ask permission to digitize the works).
We are amused for several reasons. First of all, this story has no news value. It is a “we haven’t run anything on this topic, and it’s a slow news week for everything except the airport and the Lebanon crises, so let’s do an update” story. Second, nothing new has been added to this story.
But the kicker is Allan Adler, of all folks, being characterized as miffed because somebody didn’t bow down, kiss his ring, and ask permission before doing something with the work of one of his clients. Maybe the 15 or so exceptions to copyright actually do mean something after all.
Adler calling Google arrogant is really the pot calling the kettle black. Since I first was introduced to him at an American Association of Law Libraries annual conference some years ago, Adler and his Big Content mates have acted like arrogant, dismissive people who expect that libraries, among other institutions, have a duty to protect publishers (and their profit margins) from being made extinct by Web-based technologies and flat world evolution.
Now Adler and his cronies face an opponent that has the money and public relations capital to rebut their public relations campaign to instill what Lawrence Lessig calls “permission culture.” Further, Google arguably is more important to the domestic and global economy than any single publisher. Google’s impact and influence globally is a factor that may not get argued in a legal brief, but certainly will influence the decisionmaking process of a judge or jury.
“Breathtaking arrogance”? Mr. Adler, we’re glad you’ve noticed the attitude. I just wish libraries would adopt more of that attitude as well.
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