Google Books and Copyright Law : New Feature Creates Word Clouds for Published Materials : The Example of Stars Stones and Scholars by Andis Kaulins

Words. Words. Words.

Google Books has a special page for Legal Analysis relating to Google Books and copyright law.

Our photo shows the sculpture “The Word” at Groote Markt, the marketplace in Sint-Niklaas, capital of Waasland, Flanders, Belgium,the largest such marketplace in the country:


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.

Common terms and phrases

.cloud9 {color: #7a7777;font-size: 10px;}.cloud8 {color: #7a7777;font-size: 13px;}.cloud7 {color: #646262;font-size: 15px;}.cloud6 {color: #646262;font-size: 15px;}.cloud5 {color: #4f4d4d;font-size: 19px;}.cloud4 {color: #4f4d4d;font-size: 19px;}.cloud3 {color: #393838;font-size: 22px;}.cloud2 {color: #393838;font-size: 22px;}.cloud1 {color: #242323;font-size: 26px;}.cloud0 {color: #191919;font-size: 28px;}.cloud {margin-top: 4px;line-height: 18px;}.cloud a {margin-left: 3px;margin-right: 3px;text-decoration: none;}

Ain Ghazal Ancient Britain Andis Kaulins Andromeda Aquarius Aquila Arbor Low astronomical Auriga Autumn Equinox Barclodiad Y Gawres Bouar Canis Major Carnac Cassiopeia Catal Huyuk Cave Paintings Ceide Fields Celestial Pole Centaurus Cepheus Cetus Clava Cairns Cohen Gadol Coma Berenices constellations Corona Australis Corona Borealis County Sligo Creswell Crags Cygnus Decipherment Delphinus Deneb Dolmen Draco Dschubba Ecliptic Pole Egypt Eridanus Estonia Externsteine False Cross Fowlis Wester Gardom’s Edge Gavrinis Gemini Ggantija Gozo Herefordshire Beacon Hierakonpolis Hyades Hydra Hydrus Kents Cavern Lanyon Quoit Large Magellanic Cloud Lascaux Latvian Leo Minor Magdalenians Malta megaliths Menhir Miami Circle Milky Mnajdra Mulfra Neolithic Newgrange Ophiuchus Ordnance Survey Perseus planisphere Pleiades Pole Star precession Richard Hinckley Allen Rock Drawing Rollright Stones Sagittarius Sarsens Saulheim Scorpio Scotland Serpens Caput Serpens Cauda Silbury Hill Solstice Stonehenge Tarxien Taurus Trethevy Quoit tumuli Ursa Major Ursa Minor Virgo Wayland’s Smithy Yarmukian Zhangye

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?

Take a look at these word cloudsvia Federal News Service transcriptsregarding the Democratic Party and Republican Party conventions leading to the US Presidential Election of Barack Obama.

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:

Wordle: LawPundit Recent Postings
There is also a free networking site for writers at The Word Cloud.

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