Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Douglas Fevens of Halifax, Nova Scotia, discovered that his book—Fevens, a family history—had been scanned at the University of Wisconsin and uploaded to Google Books without his consent. In a letter to the editor, he noted the similarities between the unauthorized digitization of printed matter and Dick Cheney's weekend hobby.

I am sure the American agents who performed waterboarding torture techniques on human beings thought their work "appropriate," but it was torture and it was wrong. UW's digitization of my work, "Fevens: A family history," in partnership with Google Inc., without my consent was copyright infringement and it was wrong.

Drew Smith

Fevens seems to have a problem with comparing unrelated things. In his letter, he also says "I feel that copyright infringement is akin to plagiarism".

Well, no. One is a legal issue, the other an ethical issue.

Nor do I understand his repeated references to "digital printing plates". Is Fevens claiming that if he had originally produced his book online, and UW had copied it that way, it would have been ok?


Lousy analogies aside, Fevens also needs a quick lesson on Fair Use. Google only posted snippets, at best a few lines of text. Considering that his book contains maps and photos, one has to wonder if he even had the legal right to claim copyright in the first place.

Too bad he doesn't realize that most genealogists love to share their work with anyone they can corner.

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