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Giving Google a Taste of its Medicine

The UK publishing world is abuzz with Macmillan CEO Richard Charkin‘s actions at BEA last weekend. Charkin and a colleague went to Google‘s booth, took a couple of its laptops and waited in close proximity until someone at the company noticed – something that took over an hour. Though Charkin felt “rather shabby” for playing this trick on Google he had a point to make:

Our justification for this appalling piece of criminal behaviour? The owner of the computer had not specifically told us not to steal it. If s/he had, we would not have done so. When s/he asked for its return, we did so. It is exactly what Google expects publishers to expect and accept in respect to intellectual property. ‘If you don’t tell us we may not digitise something, we shall do so. But we do no evil. So if you tell us to desist we shall.’

The Guardian’s Richard Lea says Charkin “deserves a pat on the back” while the commenters at the Register debate the merits of Google’s project. But Techdirt slams Charkin and his justification as “one publisher doesn’t seem to understand the difference between helping more people find your books and theft.” (Ron adds: Seriously—if Charkin wanted an accurate metaphor, he should have let anybody who walked up to him use the laptop after he swiped it, for free, instead of hoarding all the information it contained to himself.)

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