January 6, 2015 Last Updated 7:59 am

Google updates portfolio of iOS apps; fair use and the app stores

Morning Brief: Google updates four of its 33 iOS apps; Twitter and Facebook also release first app updates of the New Year

The app stores are now open again following the end of the holidays and a flood of app updates are sure to follow. Google has gotten four app updates through the Apple App Store team in the past 24 hours.

Google News & Weather, Google Play Books, Hangouts and Ingress have all been updated. As Google has 33 apps for the iPad alone, one can expect more updates in the coming days.

Ingress_Logo_vector.svgGoogle is an impressive app developer – and ironically, more committed to developing apps for iOS than even Apple is (which has only 18 apps to its name for the iPad in its own App Store). While Apple generally only develops apps for its existing software programs, Google is a more native developer.

Ingress, for example. is an augmented reality multiplayer role playing game. It was created by Niantic Labs, which is a developer within Google. This kind of developer is a sort of R&D lab which can produce new products quickly and experiment with new forms and factors for the platforms. This kind of business organization seems to me far more progressive and effective than the traditional, bureaucratic approach – which doesn’t seem to guarantee quality anyways, or prevent software from being released without being thoroughly tested. It gives Google a huge advantage when it comes to developing new products.


The concept of fair use has been on my mind a lot lately. TNMDM is working with one of its authors on a new, interactive eBook that has extensive use of video. That video, derived from DVDs, is essential to the book and, according to rules set down by the Librarian of Congress. The problem is that the various eBookstores are run by companies that don’t necessarily understand the law, and even when they do, can decide what to permit in their stores at their whim. As a result, their behavior often appears random and without much logic.

Recently, I ran into a problem with Vimeo, which deleted a video on mine that was to be used in the eBook. Although the video was not public, but only to be streamed from Vimeo, they deleted the content anyways. Had the book already been published there would have been a giant bug introduced into the final product.

I explained the law to Vimeo’s review team, and even sent them the text that was relevant, but to no avail – Vimeo was totally unconcerned about what was legal or not, they set the law. Now, I suppose I could have taken them to court, but that seemed a huge waste of time, as alternative hosting is available (as well as directly embedding the video into the eBook).

The major book publishers, on the other hand, are constantly trying if what they are publishing is in compliance. Sometimes, though, they are are on the same side of things as the eBook stores and hosting services, attempting to stop their customers from using their publishing products in ways they don’t like.

Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader today tweeted a story from Duke University Libraries about the case involving Georgia State University and Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Sage Publishing.

Photocopying-bookThe case concerns classroom copying guidelines: what is permissible, and how much. The publishers sued GSU alleging that the school allows its professors to make digital copies of their copyrighted work. At issue was how much of this copying was permitted under fair use, and how much was in violation of copyright laws.

“Like many recent issues in copyright law, this is a case in which technological advances have created a new, more efficient means of delivery for copyrighted works, causing copyright owners and consumers to struggle to define the appropriate boundaries of copyright protection in the new digital marketplace,” the court wrote in its decision. “These boundaries must be drawn carefully in order to assure that copyright law serves its intended purpose, which is to promote the creation of new works for the public good by providing authors and other creators with an economic incentive to create.”

In the original the district court ruling in 2012, the court found that GSU had, indeed, been permitted to copy the published works, that it was an example of fair use of materials, and ordered the plaintiffs to pay GSU’s attorney’s fees.

But in October the 11th Circuit Court reversed the decision concerning attorney fees and parts of the fair use ruling, as well. But the publishers did not get the win they wanted, a sweeping endorsement for their interpretation of fair use.

While libraries and educational institutions are concerned that a sweeping win by the publishers would result in unnecessary and harmful disruptions in education. Publishers, on the other hand, argue that excessive copying of their work would make publishing unprofitable and discourage producing original work.

At this point, though, the partial victory by the publishers is probably in their own best interests. Should the courts choose to radically revisit fair use rules in the way these publishers would like, it would lead to a situation where new publishers would enter their markets with a more customer friendly approach to publishing. In the end, schools and universities will simply not work with these publishers under the rules the publishers would desire – the perfect, modern example of a Pyrrhic victory.

Rather than continue to fight their customers in this manner, publishers need to reimagine how their customers will be using their material in the future and provide better digital tools for them to use. This is the essence of digital publishing, and how print and digital can work together. Unless print publishers understand this they will force their customers to look for 100 percent digital alternatives.


TorrentFreak is reporting that copyright holders asked the search engine to remove more than 345 million links in 2014, an increase of 75 percent.

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