24 February 2010

Why isn't the WTO cracking down on the US for Google piracy?

WASHINGTON — Copyright piracy in the United States remains at "unacceptably high levels," causing "serious harm" to creators around the world, the top US trade official failed to say today, in a report to the US Congress that has not been made. In an expanded effort to stop this harm, the Justice Department was granted, just before Christmas, a cheer package of $30 million from Congress to fight piracy.

The US Trade Representative didn't say, in the nonexistent report on US compliance with its World Trade Organization obligations, that Washington is taking no steps to meet its commitments as part of the WTO. His department didn't report that the United States is protecting and using even the State Department to advocate for a major pirate, as that pirate surpasses all others in infringing intellectual property rights laws in the US homeland and abroad, and fraudulently claiming permission granted for its thefts.
— Plagiarized and mauled version of US says copyright piracy in China still 'unacceptably high' By P. Parameswaran (AFP) – Dec 22, 2009

See the US State Department's site: Intellectual Property Violations Expanding Globally, U.S. Says: 12 nations lacking adequate copyright, patent protections

Opt in? Opt out?
The wholesale theft by Google has caused much consternation, as authors waste time having to nut out the implications of opting in and out of a settlement that shouldn't have to be contemplated.

Ursula Le Guin was entirely right when she wrote in her online petition,
"The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our public libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that. But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it," her petition continued. "We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control."
Her petition and the issues around it are well covered in this article in the Guardian, "Ursula Le Guin leads revolt against Google digital book settlement: As opt-out deadline approaches, writer launches petition asking for US to be exempt from controversial agreement

Ironically, if US authors are exempted from the agreement, this would mean that the US becomes an even more transparently egregious hypocrite about trade — a rogue state that aids (subsidizing in the multi-billion $s) and abets (in pay-by-the-word lawyereze), this pirate that is changing the meaning of piracy, if the WTO doesn't step in or the US government doesn't wake up.

Google theft is international
Google is ripping off Australians, but like many other countries, Australia isn't going to take the US to the WTO. Our government is too craven to do anything about any major trading partner, even when it's as brazen and disgusting as Japan's illegal whaling in the name of research.

Google "permission" takes permission to a new height of theft as business
If you, too have the experience of finding your books in Google Books, and see Google's statement explaining its "Limited Preview":
Pages displayed by permission of [linked publisher]. Copyright [linked to page in book]
you might also compare this permission to having money in the bank, and finding someone has taken it "by permission of [linked bank]". It's the same thing. The publisher doesn't hold the copyright. The author does.

Limited Preview also means something else to Google than to anyone else—in the case of a novel, the only page that I could find that wasn't available was the last page. In the case of a collection, I didn't come across any missing pages. I have since asked the publisher to get Google to remove these fake Limiteds that I never gave permission for, nor was any asked. By all means, if you would like to read my books, I am happy for them to be available online, making a decision to do so as the author, as all authors should have the ability to control. I'm happy to post the entire pdf of both on my site.

Note to future anthologists: just steal it!
In the case of anthologies, what Google has just done makes the permission to reprint laughable. In the case of two I've just looked at, most stories are printed in full. What Google is doing makes a mockery of the problems of, say, Alasdair Gray in compiling The Book of Prefaces. This is a masterpiece of a life's work not to mention a wellspring of fun (the glosses by Gray and others are a hoot—opinionated and intelligent) that I personally think belongs in every library, but Gray had to leave many prefaces out because he couldn't obtain permission. Despite the publicity about the copying of old books, Google knows its power lies in the modern world—fiction and non-fiction alike, all covered by copyright (will this word and concept become archaic as the wax tablet?) now.

What bothers me the most about this Google piracy is that it is part of a growing mentality in successful businesses (even ones that aren't baled out openly by government) that goes: honesty in business and human relationships is worthless, if you're big enough. Deceit and government connections are the way to prosper.

The use of permissions that the company knows are false is as dishonest as Enron's balance sheet. Google's spying is downright creepy, yet it looks like it will get away with it as smoothly as it has, its warrentless wiretapping and its pragmatically unturnoffable "personalized results", which like the opt-in, opt-out dilemma for authors, is an illegal activity that at least one government not only doesn't prosecute, but loves, undermining all that fine cant of the very government that prides itself on the rule of law—and hurting international standards everywhere.

In the absence of the US government being hauled before the WTO for protecting this pirate, I look forward to Google's making available free for the world's benefit: movies and music and prescription drugs.

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