Friday, August 28, 2009

More Catching Up With Google -- And Linking it to Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick

Blog readers may have noticed that I have failed on my promise to catch up comprehensively with the news on the beleaguered Google Books settlement. I've just been too busy on other fronts. Besides, the news has been so relentless and delivered through so many mainstream sources that my $0.02 were truly redundant.

But with thanks, again, to Anita Bartholomew, my co-objector in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, I want to point everyone to two developments in Google that either haven't yet been mentioned here at all or have gotten short shrift.

Scott E. Gant, a lawyer and author, has filed a devastatingly thorough set of Google objections. The New York Times reported this more than a week ago. See

Anita Bartholomew, closely studying the Gant filing, notes some uncanny similarities between the flaws in the Google and Freelance settlements: not just the "license by default" but also gross misstatements of foundation facts and overwhelming evidence that the plaintiff author classes have been inadequately represented. More on this later -- life permitting.

The more these two cases are understood as a package, the more, I believe, that will hasten the solution of a fair and comprehensive royalty system that includes fully negotiated (and probably legislated) compulsory licenses, rather than sneak future rights grabs by plaintiff corporations that are caught infringing.

On another note, I did link earlier to the American Society of Journalists and Authors announcement of opposition to the Google deal. But it's worth adding the following full text of ASJA's letter to its membership, which both discusses in greater depth the coalition trying to stop that settlement and has sharp language. The latter, in my humble opinion, applies with equal force to the Freelance settlement, in which ASJA (along with the National Writers Union) joined the Authors Guild as an "associational plaintiff." See below.


Dear ASJA members:

Your ASJA board of directors has decided to join the Open Book
Alliance -- a coalition of librarians, rights activists, legal
scholars and yes, large corporations -- in the hope of calling
attention to what we believe are serious deficiencies in the Google
settlement plan as it now exists. All Open Book Alliance members,
including ASJA, do not see this settlement in exactly the same light.
ASJA is not endorsing the viewpoint of all alliance members, nor are
they endorsing ours. Each group will contact the court individually.

We're joining together because time is short, the settlement document
is complex and few writers -- let alone the general public -- know
what really is in this settlement.

As writers and readers, we all loved the idea of a huge digital
library, a treasure-trove of information. Then, as it began work on
the Google Library Project, Google the Good morphed into Google the
Grabby. It now has scanned 7 million books minus the permission of
copyright owners. The settlement negotiated between Google, the
Authors Guild and publishers will go before the court for approval on
October 6, 2009. As now written, it tosses writers a little hush money
-- the lawyers get more -- and if that isn't bad enough, Google walks
away owning the rights to all orphan books. (Millions of books!)
Google also would get a whopping 37% of profits from future digital
book sales. Because this will be the only game in town, writers who
want to sell digital books at all will be forced to do so on the
settlement's terms -- forever.

Major issues we see:

- Google gets to write copyright law

- If you don't opt out by a specific date and Google already has
scanned your book, never mind what the law says. Your book stays in
the Google database. Writers should control their works!

- No restrictions on Google's use of reader info

- No language forbidding censorship

- A lock-step future -- the new registry is the sole bargaining agent
for writers and publishers for digital items not yet invented or those
not named in the settlement. (The Kindle isn't named.)

- Too-narrow representation of writers and publishers alike. 32
million books in copyright yet the Authors Guild would be writer's
sole representative on the registry. Ridiculous! Similarly, four major
publishing houses would control the publisher's side of the table,
locking themselves in and every other publisher out.

Friends, I urge you to spread the word -- this settlement is NOT good
for writers!

Please visit ASJA's information page about our stand and the Google
settlement and share it with friends:

The Open Book Alliance site is here:

Salley Shannon
ASJA president for the ASJA board


Post a Comment

<< Home