Thursday, September 22, 2005

Why Did the Authors Guild Sue Google But Not Amazon? One Guess.

The “almost farcical” July 28 settlement amendment (objectors attorney Charles Chalmers’ phrase) explicitly added Amazon.com and HighBeam.com to the list of released infringers. The settlement fund was not increased because -- shocker! -- the defendants couldn’t be bothered to do that for class representatives who had already rolled over for them. The only change, converting certain “B” claims to “A,” merely worked to the prejudicial disadvantage of other “B” claimants who didn’t happen to have been ripped off by Amazon or HighBeam but were ripped off by others.

But with the emerging evidence of Amazon’s new “Search Inside the Book” capability, what’s coming into focus is a larger narrative: the publisher-defendants in the writers’ class action settlement seized a huge and classic opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade. I’m not one who theorizes that grinding freelancers’ noses in the manure was what primarily motivated them; big businessmen hunt bigger game than can be found on the middle school student council.The real agenda, most likely, was for the publishers to exploit the pathetic weakness of the class representatives and their lawyers to get themselves fully set up and armed for the nascent World According to Google and Amazon.

Again, UnSettlement opt-outer and travel writer Edward Hasbrouck:

Do you understand why the Authors Guild is suing Google, but not including Amazon.com's "Search Inside the Book"? And why file this week, just before the settlement hearing? The only reason I can think of not to include Amazon.com would be that the Authors Guild thinks they are released, and further claims against them for "Search inside the Book" infringement are foreclosed, by the settlement.

You've mentioned in your blog that the additional "licensees" may convert many category C claims to Category B, but it's much more than that: Since copyright was presumably registered in the authors' names for most of the 120,000+ books infringed by Amazon.com through "Search Inside the Book", the addition of Amazon.com converts many authors (like me) who either weren't members of the class at all, or had only Category C claims, into Category A claimants. If included, authors of books infringed by Amazon.com through "Search Inside the Book" are the largest category of potential Category A claims, more than sufficient to exhaust the settlement fund.

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