Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What One Book Publisher Is Telling Its Authors About Google

My book publisher, Toronto-based ECW Press, included a note about Google Books along with their annual royalty accountings. ECW's co-publisher, David Caron, gave me permission to reproduce the text below.

You have probably heard about the proposed Settlement Agreement arising from a class action suit launched by a group of publishers and authors against Google in the United States. Under its Library Program since 2004, Google scanned roughly seven million books from the collections of a dozen leading U.S. libraries, without the permission of copyright holders. The proposed Settlement covers U.S. rights in books published almost anywhere in the world prior to January 5, 2009. This includes your books.

The Settlement and its process are quite complex, and has significant implications for authors and publishers. The full agreement, as well as a summary and FAQs, are all available online at www.booksettlement.com, and you should carefully review the information there.

The most pressing date is September 4, 2009. This is the date by which an author or publisher must "opt out of the Settlement, or submit comments. If an author does nothing before September 4, then the author is covered by the Settlement and cannot sue Google for digitizing works under the Library Program. In part of the Settlement, the author and publisher share a cash payment of a minimum of $60 (U.S.) per book from Google as compensation, if Google digitized thhe book without consent prior to September 4, 2009.

ECW has obtained a list of its book digitized without consent, and none of your titles were digitized. So for your ECW titles at least, it's moot whether you opt out of the Settlement. Of course, you may wish to opt out simply to voice opposition to the Settlement. One of our authors, Irvin Muchnick, makes a strong case for this at http://www.beyondchron.org/articles/Google_Books_Settlement_Has_Bombed_in_New_Haven_6857.html. If you decide to opt out, you can do so at http://www.googlebooksettlement.com/r/enter_opt_out.

ECW itself is not going to opt out of the Settlement Agreement. We do not want to pursue a legal action against Google, and do want the opportunity to gain at least some compensation as a result of Google's unauthorized digitization. Most importantly, being part of the Settlement does not mean that Google can use the book in its future plans.

Whether in the Settlement or not, either ECW or any author can remove a title from Google's database, and any of its future offerings. Google has negotiated the ability to further exploit the digitized works -- selling and licensing the works, generating revenue for Google, and then distributing half of the revenue to authors and publishers via the newly incorporated Books Registry. Again, for recent books in print, payment goes to the publisher who then must distribute it to authors. For older books, there is a means to distribute payments to both authors and publishers. It's similar to Access Copyright in this respect. We can choose to includes titles in this, or not.

For a couple of years now, ECW has been part of the Google Books Partner Program, under which ECW sent a PDF to Google to enable web searchers to obtain search results from a book and then view selected pages from the book (no more than 20% of the book). It's a marketing tool, the same as leafing through a book in the bookstore before you buy it, and the Google site has links to online retailers (including ECW's website) to encourage buying the actual book. We have noticed that a lot of our traffic to our website comes from Google Book Search. Titles that were provided to Google for this program can also be included in its future revenue plans, or they can be withdrawn.

Back t0 the Google Settlement Agreement, there are two more key dates. There will be a Final Fairness Hearing on October 7, 2009. If the Settlement is approved, then to receive a part of the cash payments, an author must register by January 5, 2010. If you don't opt out, then we would encourage you to register whether your books were digitized or not, if only to stay in the loop on the future Google offerings.


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