New Google Book Settlement Tries To Appease Worries

from the doesn't-really-change-much dept

Late (very late) Friday, Google and groups representing publishers and authors squeaked in just under the deadline and put forth a revised Book Scanning settlement agreement, designed to address at least some of the concerns and complaints raised by people over the last one. If you want a good breakdown over the changes, check out Danny Sullivan's analysis or James Grimmelmann's. Not surprisingly, the Open Book Alliance is not happy, but seeing as it's a bunch of Google competitors, they were never going to be happy in the first place (and you know that press release was probably 95% written before the actual new terms were released).

In my mind, the biggest news is the new restrictions on countries from which it will scan books. From now on, the book scanning project will only scan books that have registered copyrights in the US, UK, Australia or Canada. This was mainly to address ridiculous concerns by some in Europe that this project -- to help make all books more accessible -- was somehow a threat to European culture. I was in Europe on Friday (well, Saturday there) when the announcement was made, and it actually pissed off the folks I talked to about it -- who felt that their politicians were doing serious harm to European books by having them excluded from such a useful resource.

Separately, a lot of the focus on this new agreement, as with the old agreement, is over how Google treats orphan works. Again, I have to admit that I think most people are making a much bigger deal of this than it warrants. The orphan works stuff really covers a very small number of works. And giving rightsholders ten years to claim their rights seems more than adequate to me. I just don't see what the big deal is here. The real issue is that we have orphan works at all. Under the old (more sensible) copyright regime, you actually had to proactively declare your copyright interest. The only reason we have orphan works at all is that we got rid of such a system in the ongoing effort of copyright maximalists to wipe out the public domain.

Anyway, I think this is all something of a sideshow. I still stand by my original feeling towards the settlement, which is that I'm upset anyone felt it was necessary at all. Google had a strong fair use claim that I would have liked to have seen taken all the way through the courts. And, of course, this settlement really has nothing at all to do with the main issue of the lawsuit (that fair use question) and is really a debate over a separate issue: how to take the books Google scans and trying to turn them into a "book store" rather than more of a "library." And, in doing so, the important fair use question gets completely buried -- which I find unfortunate.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 5:30am

    "Again, I have to admit that I think most people are making a much bigger deal of this than it warrants."

    It IS a big deal.

    "The orphan works stuff really covers a very small number of works."

    If a book is out of print it should ABSOLUTELY NOT be under copyright. PERIOD!!!! There is absolutely NO reason for a book out of print ot be subject to copyright. NONE. It does not do society any good and society does not owe anyone a monopoly on anything and if they are to grant one it should ONLY be to the extent that such a monopoly is in the best interest of society.

     

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  2.  
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    cc, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 5:33am

    We're not called the Old Continent for nothing. Old habits die hard, and so do old politicians and business-people who don't understand progress and technology.

    I fear that Google's (and TechDirt's) ideals won't be the world's accepted ideals until the people ruling the world right now are dead and buried, along with their stubbornness and backwards beliefs. We can hope that when the 12-year-old "pirate" of today grows up and starts a business or gets into parliament, they'll be less myopic.

    Which is a real shame because we already have the technology to make such a digital library happen... It seems technology is moving so fast that society can't keep up with it.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 5:40am

    Re:

    "There is absolutely NO reason for a book out of print ot be subject to copyright."

    err. no GOOD reason that is (there is a reason, to help wipe out the public domain, which is what the plutocracy in power wants, but that's not a good reason).

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 6:21am

    So, only English?

    So, only (or at least mainly) English language publications will be available via Google? And how is that going to enhance French/German/Italian/Spanish/Eastern European culture? Maybe Europe will get around to doing it own literature someday, but it looks like the European governments are firmly in control of the publishing industry. Any effort to do the same thing in Europe is likely to be fragmentary and limited. It looks like what Europe is really trying to do is even further cement English-language hegemony and strengthen US culture as the standard for the rest of the world. Way to go, Europe!

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 6:55am

    I'm still trying to figure out why techdirt runs on a 5 day schedule on the internet. Why did we wait 2 days for this?

     

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  6.  
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    JP_Fife, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 7:50am

    I see some of the nutters didn't get brought back inside after the weekend. "There is absolutely NO reason for a book out of print ot be subject to copyright." (sic) This must be one of the most idiotic statements I've ever read here.

    Current copyright laws - whether people agree with them or not - have copyright lasting 70 years (in the UK) after the death of the author. There are plenty of living authors who have books that are out of print; does Anonymous Coward say that those books should be injected into the public domain merely because they are out of print, even though the people who wrote them are still alive and entitled to copyright protection under current legislation?

    I've no love for the copyright laws as they are but Google isn't doing anything for the benefit of the pubic, they are doing everything for the benefit of Google. That makes ensuring the agreement is in their favour. They are playing on Google's turf so the publishers and authors will be at a disadvantage (and the revision doesn't seem to hinder Google any more than the original settlement). And at the end of the day, whatever people's views, when Google benefit everyone else will be at a disadvantage.

     

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  7.  
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    tracker1 (profile), Nov 16th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    Re:

    I hate to take this side of the argument, but what about books that have newer revisions? If I write Math v1, and later release Math v2, does that mean since v1 is out of print I no longer have any rights? That's a poor example but still stands. I'm all for returning to a sane stance on copyright, but that's kind of absurd. The alternative would be to do a secondary run, the price of each copy is now $10,000 and it's no longer out of print... just insanely expensive... is that any better?

     

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  8.  
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    Derek Reed (profile), Nov 16th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    Re:

    Cause Mike is too lazy to work on the weekends and doesn't trust anyone else to do write-ups, especially on "big news" like this? Not to place blame or anything, just making an observation.

    Honestly I think it'd make more sense to be a little more reactive in these sorts of cases. Save some time by skipping the fluff middle of the day amusing articles and be ready to respond to big news on the weekends once in a while.

     

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  9.  
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    Chargone (profile), Nov 16th, 2009 @ 2:19pm

    Re:

    well, if one defines 'out of print' as 'having already been published once and unavailable by conventional means for the list X years' where X is something like, i dunno, 5?

    that would actually encourage people to write new stuff, probably. or not. depends how you run the logic.

    if out of print literally just means they stopped printing it then...er... wouldn't that be pretty much the moment a run was done and stuck in the trucks or whatever to go to the retailers ? :D

    anyway. i sort of understand the guy's point, but you need to apply some sanity and logic to it before it becomes a meaningful basis for action.


    as for 'when google benefit everyone else will be at a disadvantage'... who is 'everyone else'?
    that's far from the only problem with that statement, but it's the most obvious and the one i can express most coherently.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2009 @ 5:00pm

    you know what i want

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 17th, 2009 @ 8:23am

    Re: Re:

    "I'm all for returning to a sane stance on copyright, but that's kind of absurd."

    It's not absurd, our current copyright system is absurd. The notion that you think society owes you a monopoly on anything is absolutely absurd.

    Also if you keep a monopoly on version 1 that gives you less incentive to create a version two that is worth buying over version 1 instead of creating one that simply flips some chapters around (like textbooks). By releasing version one to the public domain it encourages innovation by encouraging version two to have enough added value to justifying buying it over having version one.

     

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