Innumerable Hexagons

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By: Paolo Trabattoni

Judge Denny Chin, accepting Google’s request for summary judgment on November 14 and finding that Google Books is fair use in a ruling that shows surprising consideration for “the Progress of Science and useful Arts” 1:

In my view, Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders. It has become an invaluable research tool that permits students, teachers, librarians, and others to more efficiently identify and locate books. It has given scholars the ability, for the first time, to conduct full-text searches of tens of millions of books. It preserves books, in particular out-of-print and old books that have been forgotten in the bowels of libraries, and it gives them new life. It facilitates access to books for print-disabled and remote or underserved populations. It generates new audiences and creates new sources of income for authors and publishers. Indeed, all society benefits.

Google benefits foremost, of course, but the basis of this ruling on a clear finding of fair use is cause for genuine elation. If it’s fair use for Google to do it, it’s fair use for anyone–your local library, a university library, the Library of Congress, Wikipedia, the Gates Foundation, or a non-profit as yet unincorporated—to continue the work of making from all of humanity’s textual output a common corpus that is open to inquiry by all.

Imagine an institution founded on both the ideals of the Library of Alexandria and the ridiculous infinitude of Borges’s Library of Babel: all texts in all languages, open to all and searchable by all in any language.

“Innumerable hexagons.”2

It makes me giddy.

  1. Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution 

  2. La biblioteca de Babel (The Library Of Babel), Jorge Luis Borges