Saturday, November 19, 2005

Fair Use

So there's been a tsunami of controversy about the new Google Search the Book program, which allows the contents of books to be searched for key words much like the Internet is searched for key words.

How does it work? Try it for yourself. Visit and do a search for "Konrath." You'll be able to find Whiskey Sour, completely searchable.

The Author's Guild says this violates copyright, and that allowing access to content without a royalty is the same as stealing.

I feel differently.

People read me for free at the library, sell my advance reading copies on Ebay, buy my used books on Amazon, and I don't make a cent from these transactions.

I'm also all for them.

Steal me. Download me. Search inside me. Google my complete text. Infringe me.

Just read me.

I remember when Metallica shut down Napster. Three major things resulted from that.

1. Many other peer to peer sharing networks showed up.
2. Sony began selling copy-protected CDs, which load spyware onto your computer.
3. People hated Metallica, and they lost sales rather than received compensation for their lost royalties.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the band Phish, which encourages fans to trade music freely. Phish fans are happy, and enough money flows Phish's way to make them rich.

Here's the thing--I want to be read. The more people that read me, the better off I am. Some of those freebies will translate into sales. Some won't. But they all add to name recognition, to brand awareness, and to more people knowing who I am and what I write.

I wouldn't want anyone to print up editions of my books without compensating me. But I don't mind being Googleable, even if they make some advertising revenue from my books.