Thursday, October 27, 2005

Copyright again

Is it just me, or is the debate about copyright warming up?

A day or two ago I mentioned the new blog set up by Soft Skull publisher Richard Nash. And from time to time I have mentioned the rumbling row between Google, on the one hand, and various gangs of publishers and authors on the other. (Google, if you're new to this, want to make every book ever written available online so that people can find information when they need it; the publishers and authors are afraid that this will deplete their bank balances and want to make sure that they get paid every time someone checks a fact or a quotation.)

Now Richard Nash has weighed in to the debate (link via Galleycat). He ain't too impressed with the official US publishers' line on all this, and it's well worth taking a look at what he says.

Also worth noting is the existence of the INDICARE site, which deals with digital-rights management and related copyright issues. This was pointed out to me by Nicholas Bentley, who has made his own contribution there. INDICARE offers far too much to be absorbed quickly, and at first glance it seems to have an academic slant to it which may not appeal to everyone, but there are clearly some very important issues being debated there.

For the record, I am basically on the side of Google here. Sure I would love to make money out of the stuff I write, and to a modest extent I do. But I also believe that it's no good writing something and then hiding it behind several locked doors. If what you have produced is any good, then online readers who sample it for free may well buy a copy, or recommend it to their friends, or both. And even if they don't, then passing on the benefit of your experience and knowledge is surely worth doing without payment.

It's my belief that Google will win in the end, because that's what common sense suggests. But then, of course, I have to ask myself a question: Since when did common sense have anything much to do with what goes on in the book world?

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