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August 12, 2005

Google Pushes Publisher's Buttons

In today's NYT it is reported that Google is suspending some of its ambitious operations to digitize several libraries. Apparently, its efforts have rubbed some publishers the wrong way.

''We think most publishers and authors will choose to participate in the publisher program in order (to) introduce their work to countless readers around the world,'' Smith wrote. ''But we know that not everyone agrees, and we want to do our best to respect their views too.''

Google wants publishers to notify the company which copyrighted books they don't want scanned, effectively requiring the industry to opt out of the program instead of opting in.

That approach rankled the Association of American Publishers.

There's nothing that annoys me so much as the behavior of selfish children. You know how it happens. One kid refuses to share their new stupid toy and the other kid gets bored and goes off to look for something to do. The bored kid find an old toy that hasn't been seen in years and the selfish kid claims that it was his. This is an intellectual property issue of course.

As I mentioned in Las Vegas, this kind of demand for restraint by publishers and other IP holders will inevitably result in their self-marginalization. Because unlike with real estate, there's always another way of saying the same thing - always another pass through the mountains. The value of ideas does not work on the same principles of scarcity, so creating artificial scarcity through IP restraints, will not necessarily result in an economically favorable position.

Imagine that you were my great-granddaughter and the sole owner of the Cobbian Archives. In order for this material to be valuable, you would have to be able to demonstrate that way back in 2005, there were actually black Republicans being challenged by the public. But since nobody remembers such a fact (since in the future 90% of blacks will be Republican), you would have to somehow establish that public recollection. You would do so by engaging in selling to colleges and universities some edited-down version of the Archives (which probably would not include the rude language of my 'Thats Settled' comic). But having made that nice little deal with some universities and settling the academic question, how much further should you milk the deal? I'm saying there is a point of diminishing returns at which the value of public literacy outweighs the value of private gain. Remarketing ad-infinitum seems to me to be a bad idea.

I'd only add one more example, since I'm spiting liberals these days. That would be the example of the Bible. Would it help the Church to restrain the trade in Bibles? For a great number of ideas, their true to society value is found in their free distribution.

Posted by mbowen at August 12, 2005 12:11 PM

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