Google Books and Amazon both display significant portions of copyrighted material for free. In the case of Google, there is an option to select books based on the qualifications
- Any books
- Preview available
- Google eBooks
- Free Google eBooks
Some texts like Early History of Wine Production in California have no eBook available but provide
Snippet view. Others, like History of Wine Words: An Intoxicating Dictionary of Etymology and Word Histories from the Vineyard, Glass, and Bottle provide no preview at all, and have no eBook available.
This stimulates the questions:
- Is this difference of previewing dependent on copyright or technology (i.e., have they not scanned the text or can they not get permission)?
- More importantly: what are the legal ramifications of digitizing a text and making it searchable? How much of the search results can I display without being affected by copyright law?
I very much want to allow the users of my web app to be able to search for lines in any text on my platform. If they search "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." I would like for the result to be the first line of Nineteen Eighty-Four and display some context (i.e. the surrounding lines).
What do I need to be legally aware of for this?
Clarification: I am not using Google or Amazon's services. I will obtain the books myself, even digitize them myself if I have to.
My question is specifically about fair use. I brought up Google and Amazon to describe similar web behavior.
Issues I see:
- How many lines of context around an indexed line can I display within fair use guidelines?
- Is there a problem with the fact that a user could do the following:
- Search the first line of a book.
- Read the context blurb (say 5 lines, if that is legal).
- Search the last line of the context from the previous search.
- Read that context blurb.
- Search the last line from the previous search.
- Continue until the end of the book?
It is an unrealistic case, but is it legally problematic for my app to not prevent this?