Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Author's Guild on Settlement with Google

Paul McCallister sent along an e-mail from the Author's Guild to its members:

Subject: Authors Guild v. Google Settlement: Official Notice

Click here for your official notice of the $125 million settlement in Authors Guild v. Google. We encourage you to read it. (http://hosting-source.bronto.com/896/public/Final-Summary-Notice-of-Class-Action-Settlement.pdf)

The settlement strengthens authors' rights and will, if approved by the court, result in millions of dollars of payments to authors. At least $45 million will be paid to authors and publishers to release claims for books that are scanned by Google by May 5th of this year. But that's not the most significant part of the settlement, in our view. We expect the licensing that this settlement would enable, particularly of out-of-print books, will result in far more revenues for authors over the coming years.

The settlement covers essentially all in-copyright books that were published by January 5, 2009. (Some authors have told us that they think of the settlement as covering only books for adults or nonfiction books. This is incorrect. Books of all types are covered by the settlement.)

We think it's in the strong interest of authors of all books, whether in print or out of print, to go to www.googlebooksettlement.com and claim their books. Here are some of the benefits of doing so:

1. If you file your claim by January 5, 2010, and a book in which you have a copyright interest is scanned by Google before May 5, 2009, you will be entitled to a small share (at least $60 per book, but up to $300, depending on the number of claims) in a pool of at least $45 million that Google is paying to release claims for works that were scanned without rightsholder permission.

2. By registering, you'll be able to share in potential revenues for uses of your works under several new licensing programs that the settlement enables. Here are examples of licensing revenues you may be entitled to share in:

A. Revenues from printing out pages from your works at terminals in public libraries.

B. Revenues from ads that may appear near "previews" of your works at books.google.com.

C. Revenues from sales of special online editions of your works.

D. Revenues from institutional subscriptions that may include your works.

Important note: Only out-of-print books will be included in these programs by default. In-print books will be included only where rightsholders affirmatively elect to do so.

3. By registering, you'll automatically enroll in the new Book Rights Registry, which will give you a considerable amount of control over the rights to your works, including your right to withdraw your work from the licensing programs described above.

The important thing is to assert your rights. It's easiest to do so by setting up an account at www.googlebooksettlement.com, the official settlement website. Once you're logged in, it's generally most efficient to claim your works by searching the database of titles by your name.

There are many more details, which the attached document spells out. For those who would like more information, we'll soon be announcing a new series of phone-in seminars. You will receive that e-mail later this week.

Please feel free to forward and post this message: non-Guild members are entitled to the same advantages of the settlement as Guild members.

This message was sent to you as a member of the Authors Guild.
I find the e-mail interesting because it encourages the members to join the settlement and informs them of a new world order where readers of books (and parts of books) will pay authors fees to read on demand. This is an interesting development. In some ways, it makes books more available than ever -- a potential reader of a hard-to-find book available under the agreement can now access it by Internet (assuming the reader has Internet access). Isolated readers in rural areas have as much access to books as readers in the heart of a university (again, assuming those readers have access to the Internet, and some way of paying).

It certainly will make it easier for authors to make a bit more money off their writing. This is good -- it's hard enough for most writers to make a living. The ease of paying for the copy will balance the irk of extended copyright for at least those libraries with some cash to pay for Interlibrary loan-type transactions.

But in my heart, I agree with the essay by Harvard's Robert Darnton in the New York Review of Books Feb 12, 2009, "Google and the Future of Books." If research libraries had taken the leadership role, instead of Google, we would be looking at a different future!


James Milles said...

That's the same Authors Guild that forced Amazon to cripple the new Kindle's text-to-speech function by allowing publishers to disable it. So much for accessibility for the vision-impaired.

The problem with "libraries [taking] the leadership role" is that there is no such entity as "libraries." Who are the big players in the library world? Individual enterprises, each one of them: Google, OCLC, the Library of Congress (although LC has been abdicating that role). The "library community" is a fiction. You can't expect a (sometimes) voluntary (sometimes) association of libraries or librarians, each with their own missions and needs, to constitute any kind of unified force. Or if they do, that force is simply a subset of "the market."

Betsy McKenzie said...

Jim, have you seen the e-mail from Julie Jones at Cornell? You may not have seen it. She sends a fascinating PowerPoint that I can forward to you, by Lizanne Payne, director of the Washington Research Library Consortium (with an Australian university e-mail extension). I think consortia may fill the gap that you quite rightly refer to. The powerpoint is about joint agreements for shared storage, ILL, and collection development based on a combination of just in time/just in case. Using both storage and digitized materials, with agreements for preservation, libraries are able to free up shelf space, rely on each other, digital access, on-demand printing, and still know that there is a safe copy held secure. Interesting.

Betsy McKenzie said...

PS that's so disheartening about the text-to-speech function being disabled so vision-impaired users are screwed.