Lawrence Lessig makes some good points with regard to the dispute over Google's print indexing project.
I know many writers I've talked to are unsure what to think, and some prominent innovative poets seem to be encouraging people to oppose the project.
Google wants to do nothing more to 20,000,000 books than it does to the
Internet: it wants to index them, and it offers anyone in the index the right
to opt out. If it is illegal to do that with 20,000,000 books, then why is it
legal to do it with the Internet? The "authors'" claims, if true, mean Google
itself is illegal. Common sense, or better, commons sense, revolts at the
idea. And so too should you.
Copying my comment from Silliman's blog here too:
I'm really surprised at the resistance to this project. We are going to oppose something that will make bits of information, knowledge and art accessible to an incredibly large number of people who previously did not have access to it? I don't agree at all that this project will spell the end of print publishing, but even if it did, wouldn't the new era have some pretty huge benefits?
Your words are not your "property" in the same sense as your house. We have copyright law to create an incentive for people to create things, because when people create things individually, society benefits. Copyright protections are explicitly tied to this benefit. They are not like your car, because if I steal your car, you don't have a car anymore. If I make a copy of the words you wrote, you still have them too. I have not on face taken anything from you.
We've always had the ability to share our knowledge and our art. The digital tools we now have make the cost of sharing very, very low. We should embrace that. If you are worried about money, then agitate for other ways to make sure that artists get the support they need to continue creating. I'm happy to join such calls --- but this same model of locking up knowledge and art is exactly the model that is used to _prevent_ new acts of creation, by limiting our ability to sample, remix, and reinterpret our own daily cultural environment. At this point it's a net obstacle to innovation and creation, and it's _stopping_ a lot of artists from doing the kind of art they want to do. And it's certainly stopping the distribution of knowledge; ask any number of people working in the textbook industry about the thickening thicket of rights and permissions they have to wade through to reprint something.