Google Books Settlement Deadline Approaching

Reminding all published authors: if you choose to opt out of the Google Books Settlement, you have until Friday, September 4th, 2009 to do so, otherwise you automatically get opted in. Or if you choose to opt in, September 4th is your deadline to file an objection, to submit a statement disagreeing with some aspect of the settlement.

“Google is trying to monopolize the library system,” the Internet Archive’s founder Brewster Kahle told BBC News. “If this deal goes ahead, they’re making a real shot at being ‘the’ library and the only library.” Some of the risks to libraries are discussed at the library law blog.

Parts of the proposed settlement make sense – making more out-of-print books available on-line appears to be in the general interest. Other parts not so much – it seems weird that a ruling by a New York district court should prevent authors overseas from suing Google for U.S. copyright infringement. Inkling Books have the best collection of links I’ve managed to find about the Google Books Settlement. From their site — “Because of this broad reach, drastically reducing the copyright protection accorded virtually every writer in the world, the response from overseas may well determine whether a federal district court judge in New York City approves this settlement or rejects it as overly broad and a violation of the international copyright treaty obligations the U.S. has made with almost every other country in the world.”

According to Eric Zohn, an attorney in business affairs at William Morris, “It’s like a legislative change. Under copyright law, you don’t have anything without express written consent from the copyright holder. Now the court is saying Google is free to sell your book unless you expressly tell them not to.”

Michelle Richmond has a piece up making the point that not many authors could afford to sue Google anyway, hence shouldn’t mind giving up the right to sue Google. But she also expresses the disquiet most authors must feel about such an unprecedented text grab — “My concern would be that Google Books may work in some way as a portal to bigger, more insidious practices that we haven’t yet quite envisioned…”

It’s not easy to trust a company with a motto like “don’t be evil…”
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