For Whom Doth the Bell Toll?: Google Books and the Heidelberg Appeal

173 years ago almost to the day a bunch of crazy Tennesseans and Texans in what is now Central Texas went down swinging together against impossible odds at a little adobe church that nobody had ever heard of. But they know it now.

I think if you walked into almost any bar anywhere on the planet and said “Alamo” you’d have a 50/50 chance that someone in earshot would know what you were talking about. They’d probably also know the name Crockett and the more incorrigible ones would probably know the name Bowie. And that little adobe church is still standing, against all odds.

“Remember the Alamo” became a rallying cry in the battle for Texas independence which goes to show you what an idiot Santa Ana was to not just leave that church the hell alone and march around it. The bell of that little church tolled for him.

Last week Google got their Alamo, except it was in Germany and it was called the “Heidelberg Appeal”. Like Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the church door, 1,300 German authors who had never heard of Chris Anderson nailed their protest to the door of German President Horst Köhler, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the heads of Germany’s 16 federal states. Basically every major politician in the country. The Heidelberg Appeal wasn’t signed “Victory or Death!” but it may as well have been. The juicy parts:

“At the international level, intellectual property is being stolen from its producers to an unimagined degree–and without criminalisation–through the illegal publication of works protected by German copyright law on platforms such as Google Books and YouTube….The undersigned [1,300 authors who have never heard of Chris Anderson and who sure as hell have no heated bidets] appeal emphatically to the Federal Government and to the governments of the federal states for a resolute defense, with all the means at their disposal, of existing copyright and of the freedom to publish, to research and to teach. Politicians have the obligation to enforce, at national and international level, the individual rights and aspirations linked with the production of artistic and scientific works. The freedom of literature, art and science is a major constitutional asset. If we lose it, we lose our future.”

Well, that kind of says it all, don’t it?

According to Der Spiegel “German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries called Google’s actions ‘unacceptable.’ She also urged German authors to ‘think hard about whether they want to participate in the settlement or not.'” Now when the top cop starts talking like that, it sounds postitively…criminal.

(For you Googlers, Der Spiegel is a newspaper [that thing with people called reporters, who are not like, you know, iReporters] in a place called Germany, which is like, you know, a country outside California. They have them!)

I guess those crazy Tennesseans and Texians will just have to make room for some crazy Germans, too.

P.S. I know that we’re all lucky to have the Stanford boys around to keep us from marrying our sisters and all, but ya’ll could have just left well enough alone, creepy Dr. Smarty Pants. Here’s a tip: When they start calling something the “Heidelberg Appeal” that’s kind of got that ring to it.

If you listen real careful like, creepy Dr. Smarty Pants, it tolls for thee.