Monday, February 8, 2016

How Google Robbed Millions of Authors

Last week publishers, copyright experts and other supporters filed amicus briefs petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the copyright-infringement case against Google brought by the Authors Guild. The court’s decision will determine how and whether the rights and livelihood of writers are protected.

If you type, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” into Google’s search box, the text and author will be identified for you in a matter of seconds. This is not because Google has ranks of English majors waiting at the ready, but because, over a decade ago, Google made an agreement with a number of great libraries to make digital copies of every book they owned.

In 2004 Google sent its moving vans to the libraries and carted off some 20 million books. It copied them all, including books in copyright and books not covered by copyright. It asked no authors or publishers for permission, and it offered no compensation for their use—although in compensation to the libraries Google gave them digital copies of the scanned books.

The Authors Guild challenged what Google was doing in Authors Guild v. Google, the copyright-infringement case first brought in 2005 and recently decided on appeal to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. In October the court ruled that Google was protected by the doctrine of fair use when it copied the books—partly because it only made limited samples from copyright material available to the public, and partly because the court found that making the books available to an electronic search was “transformative.”

But the definition of transformative has always meant a new expressive use of material, as for creative purposes like satire—and digital copying is useful only if it changes nothing about the original. So this was an altered definition of fair use, a doctrine with four defining principles that have always also included the questions of whether the act will result in harm to the authors and whether or not the user’s intention is commercial.

Google is nothing if not commercial. This huge trove of published content is one reason Google’s search engine is so extraordinarily good and has helped Google become so profitable. Google has used these texts, without permission or compensation, for its own purposes. These include hidden internal processes, such as the deep enrichment of its own language database, for translation, search, reference, data mining, the development of algorithms, and other unidentified uses—as well as the highly visible ones, such as telling us that it’s Shakespeare who wrote that sonnet.

Google makes very commercial use of the material, but it claims that its book-search service is so beneficial to the public that the company shouldn’t have to pay their providers for the content.

It’s useful here to consider that Google reported revenue of nearly $75 billion in 2015. Last year, an Authors Guild survey on writers’ annual incomes since 2009 showed a 67% decline for authors with 15 or more years of experience. Most respondents, if they were to live only on their writing income, would be below the poverty line.

Accomplished writers are important to us. They provide the intellectual core of our culture, and as a society we need their work, their thoughts and their voices. We can’t allow their work to be taken without compensation by technology giants merely because these giants have the capability to do so.

It was to protect authors against exactly these risks that the Founders wrote copyright law into the Constitution—because a democracy needs authors who can support themselves in a free economy, without patronage or reliance on payment from special interests. If Google is allowed to take huge swaths of copyright material for its own commercial purposes, it will establish a precedent and open the gates to future property grabs.

Google claims that it would be “prohibitive” to pay the authors for using their work, but that’s not an acceptable response. Paying suppliers is simply a cost of doing business. It isn’t acceptable for one of the world’s richest companies to claim that it needn’t pay for content that plays such a crucial part in its financial success. Google depends on these texts to make its search engine one of the best in the world, and that superiority is what drives its ad revenues. Content draws traffic, and traffic drives ad revenues.

The Supreme Court has not taken up a case involving copyright’s fair use doctrine since 1994. The lower courts—applying old concepts to new facts—have created a tide that shifts compensation from the increasingly struggling creative sector to the affluent tech sector.

Beyond the law, this is an issue of morality. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Civilization depends upon morality.” At least that’s what a Google search says he says.

Roxana Robinson is president of the Authors Guild in New York. Her critically-acclaimed novels include Cost, Sparta, and Sweetwater. This article is from the Wall Street Journal.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fitness Secrets of a Sexy Beast IV

Our bodies are a lifelong construction project. The food we eat is the raw material and the exercise we do is the building process. Most of the construction work is accomplished on the night shift while we sleep. Thus, proper quality and quantity of sleep is crucial to a lifetime of health. Likewise, the food we consume is fuel for the fire of forging a man or woman of steel. To a great extent, you truly are what you eat … and how you exercise … and when you sleep.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fitness Secrets of a Sexy Beast III

Previous articles in this ongoing series referred to the life wisdom of the Olmecs, who were the earliest known civilization in the Americas. The Olmecs buried a mystic configuration of sacred sculptures under layers of white sand and colored clay on the site of their settlement at La Venta. Sixteen jade, serpentine, and granite figures stood in a representation of a shamanic ceremony. The figures pose in a relaxed stance with flexed knees, aligned backs, loose arms and fixed gazes. This body stance is foundational both for meditation and exercises that are solidly grounded on our third element: earth.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Fitness Secrets of a Sexy Beast II

Do you want to be lean and strong enough to hike up a snowy volcano or kayak between tropical islands? Do you want to be energetic enough to dance all night or shop all day in New York, Rome, or Buenos Aires? Do you want to be fit and flexible enough to make the love of your life feel breathless and grateful every day? Do you want to be dynamic enough in your physical presence for a more exciting or higher paying career? If you do, read and heed this series on restoring harmony with our primal spiritual natures. Here's the second part of our fitness quest: air.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Fitness Secrets of a Sexy Beast

The 25-year-old I was kissing last year finally asked me my exact age. I spit out the raw number. She gave me a grossed-out "You're my grandpa with benefits?" look then ended our relationship. The 23-year-old bachata dancer before her paused a lifestyle of steamy lesbian sex to make me her first boyfriend. The 20-year-old corn goddess I'm dating now calmed my fears that our blissfully perverted love might result in me leaving her widowed with a gaggle of children. She responded unflinchingly, "You'd better, because they'll be all I have to remember my jaguar by!" I'm embarrassingly satisfied with my fit and sexy life.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Political Correctness: Fascism Disguised As Sensitivity

Idiot students at Mizzou foolishly think they’re victims of racism, when they’re actually victims of bad parents who failed to give them the love and discipline balance that produces character, plus liberal academics who coddled the dangerous fantasy of “safe spaces” free from opposing or challenging viewpoints.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Riding My Woman Into The Sunset

On my birthday tomorrow, I celebrate half a century of passionate living with half a week of passionate loving from a voracious and curvacious woman half my age at Mazunte Beach Jazz Festival. La vida es muy muy dulce.

I thank God for every sunrise, every breath, plus enough torque and thrust to take away the breath of my delicious corn goddess. The jaguar shown in this photo is an old classic edition. Still, the engine on this antique offers true high performance with all parts being original and fully functional.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pope Francis Needs To Get Laid

The title of this post is neither disrespect nor jest but a serious theological proposal that I will now defend sincerely and brilliantly. Here we go. Pope Francis recently visited the most powerful nation and economic engine in the history of the world for the 1st time. He gave a speech to the U.S. Congress. His message stressed that people should care for the poor and governments should "share" resources by redistributing them from the rich to the poor. He's absolutely correct on the 1st point but dangerously and immorally wrong on the 2nd. I believe he's sincere in his desire to help the poor. However, unless he gets himself a good woman, his papacy will add to global poverty rather than reduce it. This isn't a joke, so let me now explain.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Mississippi Cradle of American Music IV

New Orleans is where the Bible belt comes unbuckled. I realize this on Bourbon Street when a black transsexual offers me his unconscious, whiskey-drenched sister for a ten-dollar blowjob or a twenty-dollar screw. Suddenly an all-white jazz band appears. Clarinets, saxophones, trumpets, banjos, trombones, and drums pummel the tragic siblings with “When the Saints Go Marching In.”