Words. Words. Words.
Google Books has a special page for Legal Analysis relating to Google Books and copyright law.
Google Books is a wonderful information resource which can assist greatly in determining whether to buy a book or not.
Google Books has expanded in the course of time to include many new features. Among these new features are word clouds – in a book’s “Overview” section – showing a selection of frequent important terms found in a book. Here is the Google Books word cloud for Stars Stones and Scholars, the Decipherment of the Megaliths by Andis Kaulins.
We are very happy to be part of Google Books and view “word clouds” of our published works to be “fair use”. But is the legal issue here so simple?
It would certainly seem to be the case that a particular design of a word cloud is copyrightable, and since every word cloud has its own design, then word clouds would appear to be subject to copyright protection. But who owns the words in a cloud?
Word clouds are essentially one example ofdata visualization, for which there are numerous programs online.
Is a “word cloud” a derivative use (in which case it belongs to the original copyright holder) or is it a transformative use (in which case it belongs to the transformer). We favor the latter interpretation, but the issue has never been litigated.
As software applications show, “word clouds” appear to have a very “proprietary” character.
Online anyone can generate word clouds for free at WORDLE.net, which, however, claims the copyright to the word cloud image created, licensing it under a Creative Commons license with attribution. Here is a Wordle word cloud of the most recent postings at LawPundit:
There is also a free networking site for writers at The Word Cloud.