February 9, 2006 · Lessig
Some smart folks at Google have set up a group on Google Groups to do fact checking in the Google Book Search debate. Sign up and get your regular feed about the
lies mistakes feeding this debate. Here’s a snippet from the first post:
In December, novelist Susan Cheever, a member of the Authors Guild, published “Just Google ‘thou shalt not steal,’” an article suggesting that there’s some kind of official word limit, or percentage limit, to material you can copy in order for it to qualify as fair use. She writes:
“The Copyright Statute…includes a ‘fair use’ clause, so that a few lines or phrases of a writer’s work can be used as illustration by someone else. …The amount of words that constitute fair use varies according to court case. At present, it is 400 words. …Google cites ‘fair use,’ but it isn’t using 400 words; it plans to digitize whole libraries and make them available piece by piece.” (Emphasis added.)
Even this small quotation from Cheever’s article fundamentally misstates copyright law and misleads readers about Google Book Search..
First, no such 400-word rule exists. Indeed, in some cases courts have ruled that copying and republishing the entire work is fair use. (You can read about one such court decision here.)
Second, Google does not show more than two or three sentences without the author’s permission. And that’s not all. If a copyright holder chooses not to participate in Google Book Search, not a single word from the book will appear in any searches.