Friday, January 13, 2006

Legal distinction between copies of web pages and copies of books

The argument in a nutshell is that if search engines can copy webpages to search through, why can't they copy books for the same purpose, when both webpages and books are copyrightable?

My gut reaction to this argument is that the difference between the two is that you pay for books, and not for web sites. When you put content on the web, people can view it unhindered. When you publish a book, only those people who pay for the book can use it.

Maybe this single way of distinguishing the two isn't enough, though. And assuming they aren't distinguishable, does that mean that Google Book Search is a fair use or that regular search engines aren't?

3 Comments:

Blogger ed said...

I watched the rest of the Google debate, and this was what they seemed to be arguing (that websites were different then books) the publisher seemed to make the distinction because websites were 'up' on the web, so they wanted to be found and they were giving an implied consent to be indexed unless they opt out. (Lessig then pointed out that they still have the same copyright protection as books, and the same fair use provisions)
Yet somehow, while I agree the revenue for the book makes it different from the websites, I feel we are making an artifical distinction only because we are still uncomfortable thinking of the intellectual property compared to a physical object.

4:19 PM  
Blogger ed said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Edward Lee said...

Good suggestion, David. It is a possible distinction. Whether it is a material one is open to debate. The argument would be (for the side you are defending) that that even copyrighted websites understand and allow third parties to make intermediate type copies of their websites for the purposes of viewing them and finding them.

5:05 PM  

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