My case study is about Google and their project called Google Print. The Google Print
project’s goal is to make text of all the books in the world searchable. The project manager
Adam Smith says that it will empower publishers to spread their work to an infinite number of
readers. People opposed to Google Print say that scanning copyrighted book and making them
available to view for free violates copyright. Google defends this practice by stating that all
pages will be searchable but not able to be read. Google also allows the publisher to opt out of
the program and not have particular books scanned by request. Critics argue that Google
passes off the burden of enforcing copyright from the user to the copyright holder which goes
against the principles of copyright law. Google claims that under fair use the project is legal and
only allows users to read entire books if the copyright is expired or the publisher makes such an
agreement. Google also states their project will make information accessible to people who
otherwise would not be able to which would better educate the population. The index of books
created during the project will also increase the speed of research. Google also asserts that
Google Print will assist publishers to use statistics from the program to better monetize their
market. Google will also use the project to advertise books and link to sites where users of the
Google Print are able to buy the books. Google would also claim that it would benefit the writer
and publisher of the book by increasing sales. Some publishers worry that if people can view
the books online Google Print would actually decrease buying of books. Publishers also feel that
scanning books without permission would go against copyright law and motivation to write
would be removed from the writers.
According to Egoism Psychological egoism or egotism is the view that humans are
always motivated by self-interest, even in what seem to be acts of altruism. It claims that, when
people choose to help others, they do so ultimately because of the personal benefits that they
themselves expect to obtain, directly or indirectly, from doing so. It is a non-normative view,
since it only makes claims about how things are, not how they ought to be. It is, however,
related to several other normative forms of egoism, such as ethical egoism and rational egoism.
In the case of Google Print, Google is motivated by the self-interest of putting together and
finishing Google Print to benefit itself even though it may benefit others in the process. The
Google Print Website will drive a great amount of traffic to the Google site. This project will also
allow Google to sell more advertisement. This all has to do with how things are not how they
ought to be.
A specific form of psychological egoism is psychological hedonism, the view that the
ultimate motive for all voluntary human action is the desire to experience pleasure or to avoid
pain. Many discussions of psychological egoism focus on this variety, but the two are not the
same: one can hold that all actions are ultimately motivated by considerations of self-interest
without thinking that all agents conceive of their self-interest in terms of feelings of pleasure
and pain. In the case of Google Print, Google is motivated by the self-interest of putting
together and finishing Google Print to benefit Google it-self even though it could be seen as
altruistic to make all books digitally searchable. Google will end up helping others in order to
benefit the company and its shareholders.
Ethical egoism or egotism (also called simply egoism) is the normative ethical position
that moral agents ought to do what is in their own self-interest. It differs from psychological
egoism, which claims that people do only act in their self-interest. Ethical egoism also differs
from rational egoism, which holds merely that it is rational to act in one's self-interest.
In the case of Google Print, Google ought to do what is in their self-interest. Google is going
through the tedious work of scanning the books and digitizing them. The end result of the effort
will be the complete text of all books in the world being fully searchable. Acting as moral agents
Google completed a project. Making money on the project was in their self-interest. However
Google Print will greatly benefit everyone, from an individual who is searching for a book, to
the researcher trying to further their research, and the internet as a whole.
Ethical egoism contrasts with ethical altruism, which holds that moral agents have an
obligation to help and serve others. Egoism and altruism both contrast with ethical
utilitarianism, which holds that a moral agent should treat one's self (also known as the subject)
with no higher regard than one has for others (as egoism does, by elevating self-interests &
"the self" to a status not granted to others), but that one also should not (as altruism does)
sacrifice one's own interests to help others' interests, so long as one's own interests (i.e. one's
own desires or well-being) are substantially-equivalent to the others' interests and well-being.
In the case of Google Print, Google has a moral obligation to help others by making all the
books in the world searchable in a digital database. Google also fits in with ethical egoism in the
sense that they see themselves as having higher regard than the publishers in that the positive
of the project for all outweighs any negatives faced by the publishers.
The definition of altruism is loving others as oneself. Altruism is a behavior that
promotes the survival change of others at a cost to one’s own and is a self-sacrifice for the
benefits of others. Altruists deeply concern themselves with the well-being of others. They are
happy when others benefit and do well. A key concept in altruism is cooperation. In the case of
Google Print Google is providing a service and a good to everyone. Google Print is making
information to people who may not be able to get to this information if Google Print didn’t
exist. Google creating this massive index of books will allow researchers to pin point relevant
information and speech this process up. In this way Google’s intention is to promote the
happiness of others. The others in this case would be the reader of books and researchers.
Google however doesn’t really sacrifice much in this process. It could be argued that the
publishers in this case sacrifice their exact business model. Google’s sacrifice could come in the
fighting of the legal battle to keep their system in place. In this way you could argue that Google
self-sacrifices for the benefits of others.
Utilitarianism states that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its
contribution to happiness or pleasure as a whole among all people. Google scanning all possible
books in the world and making them available digitally would benefit. Following the utilitarian
principles the president would be justified in making an executive order suspending all rights
temporarily. The goal of utilitarianism is to provide the greatest good for the greatest good for
the greatest number of people. You could justify some copyright violation by saying over all it
benefits readers and that it benefits more people than it harms
In the theory of Kantianism morality is determined through human reason and acted on
out of obligation. Part of Kantianism, is the believe that rationally determined moral laws are
absolutes. Agreements that follow the rule of Kantianism must meet basic requirements which
should lead us to good will. In Kantianism intentions and reasons are more important than
consequences. As a part of Kantianism Agreements must be freely made, must be just and fair,
and must be legal.
According to Kantianism Google isn’t moral because the publishers haven’t freely made
an agreement to have their books digitized. Google also hasn’t made any legal agreement at all
and is not obligated to let Google scan and index their books. Google’s intentions of providing
information to people that would otherwise not have it and speeding up research that could
benefit others could be thought of as a good intention.
Taking into account all the various theories of Egoism, altruism, Utilitarianism,
Kantianism, and my own personal values I find that Google is morally justified in creating digital
copies of copyrighted works and making them available to users free of charge. With this you
have to keep in mind all pages of a book won’t necessarily be readable just searchable. Google’s
Project Google Print benefits readers of books, researchers, and even the publishers
themselves. The publishers and Google could easily make advertising deals and collect stats and
pass them along to publishers. Overall I believe that Google is morally justified in creating
digital copies of copyright works and making them available to users free of charge as long as
some comprises and deals are made.