Editor’s Note: José Cortina is a member of the Research Triangle Park law firm of Daniels Daniels & Verdonik, P.A.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK—As Google grows and expands its dominance of the Internet, one of its allegedly more pervasive practices is to provide access to books online without the permission of authors and publishers.

This practice is the result of what is known as the Google library project. Microsoft has decided to challenge Google on the project and has prepared remarks challenging Google for delivery at the Association of American Publishers’ annual meeting.

Google is already in trouble for its practices, having been sued by The Authors Guild and a number of authors. Google has also faced criticism and actions from other organizations such as McGraw-Hill, French publisher La Martiniere, and American University Press. A cursory review of Google’s Web site about the “Library Project,” however, makes one question who to believe.

On the Web site, Google states that it is working with several major libraries to include their collections in a “Google Book Search.” Google asserts that it is merely providing traditional card catalog information and that only information about the book and a few snippets are shown.

However, this author’s cursory review of the site revealed that what are so-called “snippets” often amount to anywhere from 25 percent to 75 percent of the total text of books sampled. In my opinion, this is certainly more than a “snippet.”

Under traditional copyright principles, Google’s practice is arguably copyright infringement. Although Google might argue that it is a “fair use” of copyright materials and an attempt to make literary works accessible to the public, it is benefiting financially from its practice through advertising revenues. A particularly interesting aspect of the practice is Google’s statement that it is working with “major libraries,” but it makes no mention of authors and publishers. Since authors and publishers traditionally own the copyright in literary works, one has to question whether the “major libraries” are in a position to grant the rights Google asserts it is legally using, or whether it is misleading “hoopla” generated by Google to justify its behavior.

In its criticism, Microsoft asserts through its associate general counsel, Thomas C. Rubin, that Google’s practice “undermines critical incentives to create.” Rubin asserts that Google’s practice encourages companies to simply take what they find desirable without respect for traditional intellectual property rights such as copyright.

As one who is familiar with resources available on the Internet and after review of the Google project, I tend to agree with Microsoft’s position. Existing copyright laws should be sufficient to restrict Google’s practice; however, it requires a multitude of individual legal actions by authors and publishers against Google.

Perhaps it is time for our legislators to consider enacting laws to counter Google’s practices in a manner that does not place the burden on individuals in pursuing action against commercial powers like Google and perhaps level the playing field for small entities challenging powerhouses such as Google.

A. José Cortina is a registered patent attorney with the law firm of Daniels, Daniels & Verdonik, P.A. He focuses his practice on the intellectual property needs of small to large technology companies, including providing patent, trademark, copyright, counseling, licensing, conflict resolution and transactional services. He is experienced in a broad range of technologies, including electronics, communications, computer hardware and software, biomedical, materials, and selected chemical and chemical engineering technologies.