Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Google Settlement

A very popular satirical site is Stuff White People Like. Stuff White People Like focuses on the preoccupations of American white left-liberals, such as farmers' markets, Toyota Pruises, not watching television, black music that black people no longer listen to (jazz, the blues, "old school" rap), supporting Barack Obama, and threatening to move to Canada.

One thing that White People Like is Hating Corporations (#82):

One of the more popular white person activities of the past fifteen years is attempting to educate others on the evils of multi-national corporations. White people love nothing more than explaining to you how Wal*Mart, McDonalds, Microsoft, Halliburton are destroying the Earth’s culture and resources.
There are some exceptions to this, most notably Apple. Apple products feature as #40 on the list of Stuff White People Like.

I mention this because one thing that could be added to this list of Stuff is hating copyright. Copyright has almost surpassed corporations at the top of this hate list, and corporations who profit from exploiting copyright (Disney, News Corp) feature highly on suchLink a list. In this scenario, potential copyright busters such as Google feature as white knights taking on what authors and copyright critics such as Lawrence Lessig would refer to as Big Media.

I mention all of this as I work my head around the implications of what is known as The Google Settlement. The Google Settlement refers to the settlement of the US Supreme Court case between the Authors Guild (US) and various publishers and Google around the Google Library Project, or the plan to digitize large quantities of works held in various libraries around the world.

As a member of the Copyright Agency Limited, I received information on the Google Settlement from CAL as one of the conditions of the settlement. The relevant information can be found here . Full details on the settlement can be found here.

For authors, the key points are:

What Google is offering: A one-off payment of at least US$60 for each Book and US$15 for each Insert that has been digitised by Google up to 5 May 2009. A searchable database of those Books can be accessed via (click Claim Books and Inserts). If you choose to accept this payment, you cannot subsequently take separate legal action against Google for that digitisation. However, a rights holder can claim the Cash Payment and exclude their Books or Inserts from the other
Google schemes.
• Revenue Model: A share of revenues from the licensed uses Google proposes to offer. Click here for more information.

If you do nothing by 5 May 2009, you are taken to have opted-in to the scheme. To opt out, you need to contact this address in writing:

Google Book Settlement Administrator
C/- Rust Consulting
PO Box 9364, Minneapolis,
MN 55440-9364, USA
This is an unusual development. Is it the privatisation of copyright, or an opening up of new opportunities for author to have their works more widely distributed? Is it good or bad for authors?

If others have thoughts on the Google Settlement and what it means for authors, I would be very keen to hear them. Please post to me on this blog.

No comments: