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.

Filed Under: authors, book scanning, book search, copyright, fair use, orphan works, publishers, settlement
Companies: google

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  1. icon
    tracker1 (profile), 16 Nov 2009 @ 8:40am


    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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