So, you remember when an assortment of university libraries conspired with Google to make digital copies of books they didn’t hold the copyrights to or have explicit permission from the copyright holders to make those copies? And you remember how nothing came of it because apparently you can sometimes get away with shit when powered by sheer audacity and the difficulty copyright holders have figuring out if you violated their copyright?
And remember how it was especially appalling that libraries would be involved in this since they damn well knew better?
Perhaps you knew that those illicitly made digital copies now reside in a “trust”–HathiTrust to be exact–at the University of Michigan. Which is, of course, a joke of a name, considering the massive breach of trust those libraries inflicted when they conspired with Google in the first place. But I supposed HathiTrustStartingRight…Now, though truer, would inspire less confidence in rightsholders. Though how rightsholders could have less confidence in institutions that have no regard for copyright law is unclear.
Perhaps you even saw that Duke University Press has decided to go ahead and “let” HathiTrust digitize much of their backlist, which is a little like saying to the cattle rustlers you caught coming out of the slaughter house with a wad of money and new boots that, fine, if they want to steal your cattle, could they at least give you boots too, since there is no “letting” since the digitization, for the most part, is already done.
And maybe you felt as I do, that you can’t really blame Duke, though, because it’s not like university presses can just afford to digitize their backlists. And it is valuable and should be available. And so, if you can shine a turd, why don’t you?
But you still would like for someone to knock the shit-eating grin off of the faces of the wrong-doers.
And then, along comes the Author’s Guild.
Edited to add: Here’s more, though I’m surprised they don’t mention the fact that they scanned a ton of books that aren’t orphaned, that they didn’t have the right to scan in the first place, which is how we got in this mess to begin with. I find Paul Courant’s statement somewhat shocking, though. Are libraries really unaware of how much ill-will they generated through this stunt? People were cooperating not because they were excited but because libraries had Google’s money and lawyers on their side. If someone can rise to the level of dean and not understand that… well, I find that hard to believe. He simply has to know how much ill-will there still is out there. It’s derailed the Google settlement, after all.
All this goes to show that you can have a good idea, but ramming it down people’s throats instead of getting their buy-in makes you enemies, not partners.
Opinions in this post are mine alone. I shouldn’t have to say that, but I will.