B. “ex-MP3” Dear v. L. “Google-Boy” Lessig

Brian Dear goes lustily after Lawrence Lessig for the latter’s support of Google’s Google Print program. Calling Lessig “Google-Boy” is unlikely to endear Dear to Larry L., but I have the distinct sense that Brian doesn’t care. Anyway, he makes some interesting arguments, which basically can be summarized as “Google needs to pay rightsholders, and it arm-wavingly isn’t”.

Whatever your feeling about the preceding argument — and I think Brian makes a sound point, but on balance I’d self-servingly rather see wider access to fringe content than wait 200 years before Google’s finds every kook author hiding under tinfoil in an electricity-less Montana cabin — Dear does catch Lessig with his copyright pants down. One of the images in Lessig’s presentation is copyright someone else, someone who didn’t give Lessig permission to use it in his widely distributed presentation. Ouch.


  1. An image in Lessig’s presentation? That would be governed by the Fair Use doctrine, Paul. Larry might sometimes stretch that doctrine to its fullest, but this particular use is well within the bounds of the law.

  2. Hey Matt —
    Strictly speaking true, but an awful lot of imageowners of which I’m aware ask that you get their permission before using their images in presentations, and many of those folks charge fees.

  3. Michael Robinson says:

    Actually, Brian summarizes his own argument (and, in fact, the Author’s Guild argument) quite concisely.
    Quote: “The author loses. They don’t collect Lessig’s ‘pennies’. Maybe that’s all they get, but dammit, they should get ’em!”
    The rest of his so-called “argument” is nothing more than undisguised run-of-the-mill ludditism. In fact, it is clear that the shred of actual, legitimate argument is there only in service of the greater ludditism:
    “I just want Google to do it right. Pay for it. Spend your billions to track down every rights holder, and negotiate a deal. With every damn rights holder. One by one. It may take 200 years. So be it.”
    Unfortunately for Brian Dear, Fair Use is established legal doctrine, and ludditism isn’t. I don’t expect the courts to be swayed much by the assertion that “books are toast. Google Book Search is the toaster.”

  4. This is rediculous. Our IP laws are stuck in the industrial age.
    Needless to say, I reserve little kudos for IP monopolists. What a sad existence it must be trying to exploit your copyright to the exclusion of the rest of the world.
    Any publisher who has a problem with Google reproducing their work, must be very short sighted and embrace the idea of other taking their content and running with it. Sharing – is the best way to make a buck.

  5. Matt – what “fair use” doctrine would that be? Lessig isn’t reproducing the image in question for the purposes of criticism or academic research *into that image*. That’s what fair use means – not that if you’re an academic, you can use any image you like, in any context you like.

  6. That is exactly what Lessig is battling – to end every single image, text, video and any other piece of content stuck underneath the copyright boulder. That slows down innovation, the creative process, and harms the economy in the long run …