Here are two of the arguments, edited (bold from me).
[ ] even if making “a copy of a copyrighted work” is illegal, it is not “in essence stealing it.” See the Supreme Court’s rejection of this false analogy in footnote 33 of Sony v. Universal.
[ ] and most important, not every “copy” violates copyright law. In particular, if a copy is “fair use,” then copyright law has not been violated. The question in this case is thus, as always, is the copying for purposes of making snippet access available “fair use.” As much as you know that it is wrong to download music without the permission of the copyright owner, I hope you also know that it is right to make copies — even without the permission of the copyright owner — when such copies are fair use.
True, most authors would prefer to make more money from their works than they did before. True, Google plans on copying them (for purposes of making snippet access available) without permission. But the implication — that Google’s copying will reduce author’s opportunity to make money — is false. Out of print books are — by definition — books the authors are not making money on. Google’s Book Search will refer people who discover the out of print book to book sellers. If demand for a currently out of print book grows, then it is more likely than before that the book will go back into print, meaning again, the author can make money. So contrary to the “if Google copies, authors lose” fallacy, if Google enables access, at least some authors will get something they don’t have right now — their out of print book back in print.
First, both sides in this debate are effectively “tell[ing] these authors what’s best for them.” Microsoft and the Publishers are telling the authors that it is best for them that the law ban companies like Google from securing access to snippets of their works. They want a rule that says “ask first” not for permission to distribute copies of their books, but for permission to enable access through a 21st century card catalog. When in the history of man did the law require permission from an author (or publisher) for a work to be included in a card catalog?
Second, the point ignores the central point in this debate: Given the insanely inefficient system of copyright that the government has created, there’s no way to identify the current owners of these copyrights (for works out of print). So how, again, are these people to be “asked”?