I hate Google stealing book rights from authors and I do not want to help them doing so. I consider digitalization of books generally a good idea, but it should not be done with evilness and disrespect to authors as Google does it. I do not want to make this a Google vs anti-Google discussion and I respect anyone who wishes to help them and/or likes them, but I would like to be given a choice not to do so. If I was even more shameless I would wished that you give everyone information about reCaptcha before s/he fills it in (information that it is helping Google read books).

I feel that there are good arguments on both sides - helping/not helping Google with reCaptcha, so the right thing to do is to give a choice.

[edit] To be as constructive as possible, here is the list of possible alternatives:

and many other exists.

  • 4
    Jeff is adamant about having some kind of CAPTCHA in the system, so while I think you may have a reasonable request, I also think you should include in your question your idea of an alternative to reCAPTCHA.
    – Jon Seigel
    Apr 17, 2010 at 22:08
  • I am not an expert in CAPTCHA alternatives and their security, but I am sure there are alternatives. You are right that my request would be much more constructive if I have provided specific alternative solution. I will try to investigate on this, althought as I already stated, I am not an expert.
    – user145675
    Apr 17, 2010 at 22:23
  • Until now I have found these resources: stackoverflow.com/questions/471031/… stackoverflow.com/questions/3027/… ajaxline.com/best-free-captcha-solutions and these are only other CAPTCHA alterantives, many sites using other means to protect against spam.
    – user145675
    Apr 17, 2010 at 22:40
  • 3
    Wow, I thought Friday was over!?
    – Earlz
    Apr 17, 2010 at 22:51
  • I have a strange feeling that I do not understand you ;-)
    – user145675
    Apr 17, 2010 at 23:00
  • @ja.kub.cz What do you mean "stealing books"?
    – Sampson
    Apr 18, 2010 at 1:57
  • @Jonathon - search for: google books lawsuit. Have a read of this essay: theregister.co.uk/2009/06/26/copyfraud
    – Kev
    Apr 18, 2010 at 2:25
  • 4
    @Kev - That's absolutely hilarious. Sensational journalism at its finest. I loved the bit about how the creative commons folks are trying to subvert copyright. Oh well, that's what I expect from The Register anyway.
    – Pollyanna
    Apr 18, 2010 at 4:10
  • @Polly oh noes! theyz Creative Commonzzzz taken my mai b00k fr33d0ms. 3vil commons!! post haste.
    – Earlz
    Apr 18, 2010 at 7:52
  • @Polly wait finished reading the article now "Flicker is enacting a blatant power grab on behalf of Creative Commons." heh what can they possibly do with CC licensing? It's freaking free!
    – Earlz
    Apr 18, 2010 at 8:03
  • 2
    @Earlz: Not only that, but Flickr does not "force users" to use CC. All my stuff on Flickr is copyrighted to me. El Reg is a fun read, but usually needs to be taken with a grain of salt. :)
    – John Rudy
    Apr 18, 2010 at 16:21
  • I see valid arguments for both sides - for/contra reCaptcha. Therefor e I thing the good thing to do is to give user a choice and give them full information so that they can decide tehemselves what to do.
    – user145675
    Apr 18, 2010 at 18:40
  • Ok, to be constructive I have added several resources for Captcha, which can be used as alternative. And again - I am not asking that SO takes the reCaptcha down, I ask "please, give me a choice". I think this is not that much to ask.
    – user145675
    Feb 9, 2011 at 9:12
  • Another evidence that by using recapcha you people are used as "human recognition systems" to steal books nytimes.com/2010/04/01/world/europe/…
    – user145675
    Apr 17, 2011 at 19:37

4 Answers 4


As others have said, you might want to question your motives for this request.

But if you feel this strongly about it, there's actually a way to accomplish what you want. The basic idea of reCaptcha is this: The user is presented with two words (i.e. images) obtained from scanning an analog source. For one of the two images, it is already known which word it represents. For the other one, it's not.

Since only one word is known, obviously only the user's solution for this one word can be used to judge whether the captcha was solved. The user's solution to the other one is used to determine the correct word.

Let's look at an example:

recaptcha example

You can see that the word "cabbage" looks easier to read for an OCR program than the word "beyond" (in particular, note the missing horizontal bar in the "e"), so you can assume reCaptcha already knows that the first word is "cabbage", but isn't sure about the second one.

So this word "beyond" will be presented to users solving reCaptchas all over the world, and if 95% of them type "beyond" into the box, reCaptcha can be pretty confident that the word actually is "beyond".

If it's your desire not to help them, just be one of the remaining 5% and don't enter "beyond". Entering

cabbage dontbeevil

into the box would still lead to the captcha being solved, because "cabbage" is correct. But they knew that already, so you haven't given them anything new.

All that said, I ask you again to inform yourself a little more about the background of reCaptcha and think about whether it might be a good thing after all to actually enter "beyond".

  • 1
    +1 for giving the OP an alternative (however sensible that may or may not be) and providing excellent background info - I had always wondered about some blatant typos I've made that got through without complaint.
    – Pekka
    Apr 18, 2010 at 8:39
  • +1 for creating unicornify
    – juan
    Apr 18, 2010 at 14:32
  • Excellent suggestion - giving it an alternative and providing excellent info. This is exactly what I would love as a solution. I think that there are valid arguments on both using/not using reCapcha side, so let us have a choice and inform people what is going one. I feel that just using reCaptcha without informing people for what it is used is not the right thing to do.
    – user145675
    Apr 18, 2010 at 18:38
  • @ja.k 99% of people do not have a problem with reCaptcha. Even if we put a link to here where the purpose is further explained, 95% of users will still not click on that link. Because it doesn't matter..
    – Earlz
    Apr 18, 2010 at 19:51
  • @Earlz: That information is on reCaptcha's own "Learn More" page (linked in my answer). The click way from any reCaptcha in the world is "?" -> "Learn more" -> "Learn how reCaptcha works". Hard to make it even easier than that.
    – balpha StaffMod
    Apr 18, 2010 at 20:04
  • Still I think SO should give users a choice not to support debatable effort to digitalize copyrighted material. See nytimes.com/2010/04/01/world/europe/…
    – user145675
    Apr 17, 2011 at 19:41

I hate Google stealing book rights from authors and I do not want to help them doing so.

You are incorrect. Copyright is granted to authors for a fixed period of time to encourage them to release their works knowing they will have a government sanctioned period of time during which they may gain profit from their work WHILE explicitly telling them that their work is meant to be a benefit to society in general.

If they do not wish to participate in copyright, they are able to do so simply by not publishing thier work.

Those who wish to both publish their work and know it will never be used without profit to them or their heirs should move to a country where they may realize their desire.

I do not want to make this google vs anti-google discussion

This is not about Google at all. This is about people deciding whether they believe that ideas, works, patents should have a limited period of exclusivity so that society can move forward together. Further, prior to the concept of copyright authors got nothing for their efforts, except what the Lords of their time paid them. Once people could easily and cheaply make copies of books, the authors appealed to the government to give them a period of time where they could make a living off each work. This encourages them to take on these endeavors, because otherwise there would have been no profit for them in the first place.

It is quite bold of you to suggest that authors should now be given government protection WITHOUT providing ANYTHING to the government (ie, society as a whole). Perhaps the system you'd like to see is copyright protection granted in perpetuity as long as they license their book with the government - pay a fee and get approval to publish the book. That seems to work out really well in countries big on censorship.

If you allow authors (or their companies) to forever hold their works, then you must allow patents the same benefit. In the same way that we enjoy indoor plumbing and medical remedies such as ibuprofen for pennies, the cultural growth we've achieved can only be obtained when schools can afford to reprint Dickens, Bach, etc.

That move is only one step away from banning libraries from lending out books - shouldn't the authors be paid everytime anyone reads any of their published words? The next step, of course, is banning second hand sales of books without paying a royalty.

It is shortsighted to believe that we, as a human race, can move forward and progress without sharing.

It truly boggles my mind how many people have such a basic misunderstanding as to the purpose of copyright law.

  • Now, as to the premise that works may be republished and re-copyrighted, that is unfortunately a sad side effect of this whole system, and the reason why art is not more widely copied. The person that owns a given copy of a work can choose to allow others access to it, or not, and can enforce that access by copyright. There are books that fall in this crack where there is only a few known copies, and the owners of those copies choose to exercise their rights and use the laws to limit access and generate income. Google may by profiting indirectly....
    – Pollyanna
    Apr 18, 2010 at 5:41
  • However, keep in mind that ultimately this is a good thing: Even those copyrights must eventually run out, and by digitizing them Google is virtually guaranteeing that when those copyrights run out, they will be in the public domain, rather than in crumbling physical copies with owners reluctant to have them re-published. No, it's not ideal, but there's no good solution to that. If we simply say that such works are public domain and cannot be re-protected under copyright, then you simply give the owners NO reason to release them at all, and the work is then not accessible at all, in any form.
    – Pollyanna
    Apr 18, 2010 at 5:44
  • But if you or someone else has a good solution to that, that doesn't simply produce more loopholes and revenue streams, I know a congress that would like to hear about it.
    – Pollyanna
    Apr 18, 2010 at 5:46
  • -1: Aren't you attacking a straw man, considering that Google isn't just digitizing out-of-copyright material? Jul 30, 2010 at 23:27

As a short-term solution, you could use the audio version of the captcha. As far as I know that uses only already free content.


Re-Captcha is an excellent bot discouragment system, which technically is leaps and bounds above any other known free system in terms of ease of use (ie, doesn't bother people too much) and correctness (ie, rejects bots more often than other systems).

If you have a good suggestion for a free alternative with similar ease of use and low rates of false positives and false negatives, I suspect that the SOFU owners and developers might be more inclined to offer a second option.


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