November 20 – November 27, 2008 Edition

European Booksellers
Voice Strong Concerns
Over Google Settlement

BRUSSELS/Authorlink News/11/20/08–The European Booksellers Federation, on behalf of its membership, has issued a statement of protest in response to the announcement in the US by the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Google on 28th October 2008 of a settlement that would expand online access to millions of in-copyright books and other written materials in the US from the collections of a number of major U.S. libraries participating in Google Book Search.

Google is an undisputed global leader in content provision and has revolutionized accessibility of content across our planet and for this, and other ground breaking digital development, it must be applauded, the statement said.

The EBF, however, expressed some clear concerns. The statement read:

"As such a dominant player in the online world, Google will occupy a unique gateway position that, if abused, will inevitably create a de facto monopoly. A situation where competition is removed from the market place by such a dominant player cannot, ultimately, be good for the consumer and would be highly damaging for cultural diversity in the European Union, if Google was planning to extend its policy in the US to Europe.

As pointed out by one of EBF's Members, the agreement is like a Trojan horse on which Google advances to take over the worldwide dissemination of knowledge and culture "…this amounts to an expropriation of authors through the backdoor. The issue is not to acquire the inalienable rights of authors through a 'golden hand shake'". The only way in which an author can guard his or her rights under the proposed settlement is to register the works of which he or she is the originator in a catalogue of book rights. This procedure, we believe, is likely to run contrary to the key provisions within European copyright law.

Furthermore, this agreement appears to be in direct contradiction of a statement made to EBF by Google in 2005 saying that their sole revenue stream was for advertising revenues placed next to book excerpts, and that the revenues were to be shared with publishers.

Google said at the time that their mission of objectivity did not allow them to participate in any affiliate or revenue share model with any linked retailer.

If approved by the US court, the agreement will give Google the ability to benefit financially from digitised content. They will effectively become an online retailer.

Many booksellers in Europe are either active partners in the digital world of books already or are in the process of developing new digital initiatives. While the zeal of embracing the new is adopted by those who supply content, it could result in the short term 'starvation' of the traditional bookseller. Consumers would be denied long-term channel choice as well as the customer experience of knowledgeable and interactive bookselling that does so much to build the debut author, the little known poet, and the niche writer. While no bricks and mortar bookseller can afford to ignore the digital world, or indeed not to participate in it, it is the EBF's belief that the 'one-stop shop' direct-to-consumer approach of Google will inevitably result in a bookselling world that is culturally poorer for readers.

EBF would like to emphasise that online progress is warmly welcomed by its membership but believes that this recent agreement, if ever adopted in the European Union, is not only a breach of the 2005 statement from Google but will also have a hugely damaging effect on European cultural diversity and on the book chain, namely, authors, publishers, booksellers and, it goes without saying, European readers. EBF believes that Google would be in a dominant position, which could be easily abused.

We urge all those who have influence in these matters to resist any similar agreements being introduced into the European Union."

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