Royalties For All
See "Browsing magazines in Google Books," http://chrisbourg.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/browsing-magazines-in-google-books/. (Thanks again to blogger-twitterer Eric Rumsey for the pointer.)
This area brings my work as an activist on this issue full circle. In 1994, I led a group of National Writers Union members in confronting a fledgling fax-on-demand article delivery service called UnCover, an affiliate of a for-profit spinoff of the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries. UnCover became the first licensee of an even more fledgling collective licensing agency, called Publication Rights Clearinghouse, which I launched for the NWU during my period as its assistant director (1994-97).
In 1997 I left the NWU staff, mostly because Publication Rights Clearinghouse was going nowhere and because I felt UnCover, a dead-bang infringer that was supposed to be working with us to expand it, was instead blowing us off after milking its PR value. I became a copyright litigation consultant and packaged a case against UnCover, Ryan v. CARL, that settled in 2000 for $7.25 million.
And the rest is history.
Much more recently, with the Google Books settlement in suspense and with the Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick (or "Freelance") case at the Supreme Court on a technical jurisdictional question, I wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder to propose that the Justice Department, which had just intervened constructively in the Google case, now use its good offices to coordinate the Google and Freelance cases. The two cases involve the same root issue: the reuse, without permission or compensation, of previously published authors' works.
The news that Google Books has already begun moving seamlessly into magazine article retrieval just underscores that all this litigation, in the public-policy sense, is of one piece. And that a fair and equitable royalty system (which the Google Books settlement proposes but the Freelance settlement does not) is an obvious solution if it can overcome Constitutional hurdles. (I am among those who believe compulsory licenses are probably Congressional, not judicial, business.)
Meanwhile, all of you freelance magazine writers out there can follow the growth of Google Books for yourselves, and get as creeped out as I was when I learned that an obscure 39-year-old article of mine, written when I was 15, is already part of the system.