Brewster Kahle Sez: "Stop Google Before They Privatize Our Libraries!"
Brewster Kahle, the computer scientist who invented "search" and who now runs the Internet Archive in San Francisco, has written a mild, succinct (kind of boring) editorial for the Washington Post against the Google book settlement.

Earlier in the year, Kahle and the Internet Archive tried to jump on board the settlement as a defendant, seeking the same special legal protections that Google will receive as a result of their class action lawsuit settlement with the Author's Guild. The court struck down the Internet Archive's petition as "interference," so now Kahle is trying to raise public awareness about the settlement's provisions.

From the Post:

"Whereas the original lawsuit could have helped define fair use in the digital age, the settlement provides a new and unsettling form of media consolidation.

"If approved, the settlement would produce not one but two court-sanctioned monopolies. Google will have permission to bring under its sole control information that has been accessible through public institutions for centuries. In essence, Google will be privatizing our libraries."

Kahle is calling for the courts to reject the settlement completely, citing the threat of monopoly and claiming that non-profit agencies (such as the Internet Archive) would do a better job of scanning and hosting titles.

"Separate from the Google effort, hundreds of libraries, publishers and technology firms are already digitizing books, with the goal of creating an open, freely accessible system for people to discover, borrow, purchase and read millions of titles.

"It's not that expensive. For the cost of 60 miles of highway, we can have a 10 million-book digital library available to a generation that is growing up reading on-screen. Our job is to put the best works of humankind within reach of that generation. Through a simple Web search, a student researching the life of John F. Kennedy should be able to find books from many libraries, and many booksellers -- and not be limited to one private library whose titles are available for a fee, controlled by a corporation that can dictate what we are allowed to read."

Curiously, Kahle doesn't say anything about how his non-profit plan will ensure that writers get paid for their work. I suspect he is one of those "information wants to be free" teenage rebels with a big, bad motorcycle, one of those cats who never asks: "But then how will information eat?"

(You can ask them, but they will just gun their motorcycle -- nuun NUUN NUUUUUUN GGGGNNNNNNNUUUUUNNNNNN)

Sometimes sex is free. Sometimes you have to pay for it. That doesn't mean "sex wants to be free," because there's nothing metaphysical about economics. Sex wants a new hat and a steak. If you don't let people have something without paying for it, you create scarcity and so demand goes up.

It's interesting that Kahle chose the Washington Post to deliver his polemic. Google and the Washington Post have been working under the table to create a news aggregating system that will feed people content based upon the stories they read most frequently.

Maybe Kahle was worried that Google would bury his editorial if he put it in any other paper and he was hoping to slip it in using some kind of preferential search treatment protocol that Google has crafted for the Post.

Maybe he's just being a dick. I hope so.

For a lengthy and in-depth explanation of the Google book settlement's provisions, check our interview with James Grimmelmann, a law professor who is writing an amicus brief about the topic for the New York Law School.

Posted by miracle on Fri, 22 May 2009 11:50:11 -0400 -- permanent link

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