Google gains, authors lose

AS THE FREELANCE was going to press the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by the Authors Guild (USA) against a ruling that Google was allowed to scan tens of millions of books without permission. That held that the unauthorised copying was "fair use" not least because it was "transformative".

"Today authors suffered a colossal loss," said Authors Guild president Roxana Robinson. "We filed the class action lawsuit against Google because Google's taking was a plain and brazen violation of copyright law. We believe that authors should be compensated when their work is copied for commercial purposes."

The Freelance has long wondered why Google is so keen to spend millions scanning works on paper. It helps feed the corporation's attempt to make translators redundant. But is that "transformative"? The massive publicity gained for its "Deep Learning" system beating a grandmaster of the game Go may provide a clue. It wants to learn from the books - probably, to start with, to understand what we write and, to start with, throw more targeted ads at us.

NUJ Freelance Organiser John Toner commented: "We commend the Authors Guild for pursuing this and share their outrage. The job of getting authors a share of the massive profits tax-avoiding corporations make from our work now falls to lawmakers, not least in Europe."

Last modified: 30 Apr 2016 - © 2016 contributors
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