November 27 – December 4, 2008 Edition

Author Outraged
Over Google


Authorlink News/11/27/08—In an ongoing discussion this week about Google’s $125 million settlement with the Association of American Publishers and Authors Guild, Authorlink received this statement from author Frances Grimble, published with her permission in its entirety. We invite other authors to leave comments at . For background on the settlement click EXPERTS EXPLAIN GOOGLE SETTLEMENT IN GREATER DETAIL. An audio interview with the chair of the European Booksellers Federation will appear next week on Authorlink.

Grimble’s Comments:

“It is outrageous that the Author’s Guild, after suing Google for using ‘snippets’ of books in a book search engine, has cut a deal/contract with Google for a far, far broader set of rights allowing Google to sell those works entire. And in multiple ways: As parts of packages sold to libraries, as e-books to consumers, as print-on demand books, and as ‘anthologies’ Google puts together from parts of books. Given the years it takes to write a book and the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to produce one, the offered compensation of $60 per copyright violation is pitiful. And not even guaranteed: The total amount is fixed, but what each copyright holder gets depends on how many come forward to place a claim.

It is outrageous that Google and the Author’s Guild are now applying this private deal/contract to every copyright holder in the US, and in every country that signed the Berne agreement. There is no way they will all find out about the Settlement before the May 2009 opt-out deadline—if ever.

Google’s website about the Library project is still full of reassurances that they are only copying public-domain books published before 1922. Is there any reason to believe Google will abide by opt-outs, now that they’ve flagrantly violated US and international copyright law and lied about it?

The terms of the Settlement are outrageous. They enable Google to seize control of all books that are out of print for only one year, and Google defines “out-of-print.” Furthermore, the Settlement allows Google to declare print-on-demand books ‘out of print’ by criteria not specified in the Settlement.

I strongly suspect that authors who think the Settlement will be a nice little revenue stream, will find that ‘little is the operative word. If their books did not sell when marketed in a lukewarm way by their publishers, and when they were only competing with books currently in print, how well will they sell when also competing with hundreds of thousands of out-of-print books and when they are not actively marketed at all? Self-publishers, people who went into business to have control over the publication process, will soon find that Google is now their publisher.

The financial terms are the least important part of the Settlement. The important part is that the Settlement is based on a massive violation of copyright law. Google could have set up a similar distribution system and invited rights holders to voluntarily participate. However, in its eagerness to control the publishing industry, Google merely seized hundreds of thousands of books, and is now offering their rights holders a contract drawn up together with an organization that the vast majority of rights holders do not even belong to.”