CNN carries this article today on the controversy surrounding Google's Digital Library program. While the legal question of whether or not it is a fair use of the books to scan them in and make them searchable without allowing the display of more than eight lines at a time is open to debate, I am so sick and tired of all these stupid analogies between physical property and copyright flying around. Check out this one by a UK publishing group:
To endorse Google's library initiative is to say "it's OK to break into my house because you're going to clean my kitchen," said Sally Morris, chief executive of the U.K.-based Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers. "Just because you do something that's not harmful or (is) beneficial doesn't make it legal."
I mean, really, what the hell? Google goes to a library, borrows the book completely legally, scans a copy into its indexing database to help web users find it as a research resource, and this is now being equated to felonious trespass?
Trespass is illegal because of privacy concerns, people, not because of information access concerns. If I walk into your house without permission, it's invading your privacy, not "stealing" something you own. Noone's privacy is being violated when Google takes a publicly available book and links its contents to keywords on the web.
The only plausible analogy (which I also disagree with for other reasons but recognize has some cognitive cohesion) would be if Google were selling the book in competition with the publisher. Then you might have a case where you could analogize Google to some kind of CD/DVD bootlegging operation that "steals" the profits of the publisher.
So far, however, none of the publishers can show a single shred of evidence that the Google search index will reduce their sales. If anything, Google has already made the case that it will increase sales. At any rate, the physical property analogy to breaking into someone's home is deeply flawed and misplaced, and publishers are doing a vast disservice to their industry and their authors by continuing to disseminate such flawed rhetoric.