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Google Expert Refutes Author’s View of Settlement

Pub Date:

MAIN NEWS HEADLINES
December 4 – December 11, 2008 Edition

Google Expert
Refutes Author's
View of Settlement

Authorlink News/12/04/08—In an ongoing discussion since October about Google's $125 million settlement with the Association of American Publishers and Authors Guild, Authorlink last week published statements from author Frances Grimble, who is outraged over the agreement. Also this week, the European Booksellers Federation expressed its serious concerns. This week, Michael Boni lawyer for authors in the case, commented on what he sees as factual errors in Ms. Grimble's piece. Authorlink recommends the reader access discussions about the issues in Experts Explain Google Settlement in Greater Detail and Google Settlement Has a Few Unseen Wrinkles for Writers, for a better understanding of the comments below.

Ms. Grimble said the AAP and Author's Guild had granted Google far, far broader rights than what the entities had initially sued to Google to prohibit ."The agreement would now allow content to be sold "as parts of packages to libraries, as e-books to consumers, as print-on-demand books, and as anthologies Google puts together from parts of books," Grimble said.

Mike Boni commented that these packages are "institutional subscriptions and provide a tremendous service that will breathe new commercial life into out-of-print books." He also added that such uses are not authorized under the agreement and he described them as "potential future uses only, if the [soon-to-be-established] Book Rights Registry and Google agree."

Ms. Grimble said "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."

Mike Boni said the $60 compensation is only for already scanned books. He said the total amount of compensation "is not fixed. The $45 million is a minimum amount." He also said the $60 is a guaranteed minimum and that compensation can be as high as $300, but no lower than $60. [Authorlink understands that the amount an author who ‘s work has already been scanned does depend upon the number of claimants who come forward.]

Grimble asked whether there was any reason to believe Google will abide by opt-outs. She said "It is outrageous that Google and the Author's Guild are now applying this private deal/contract to every copyright holder in the U.S., and in every country that signed the Berne agreement. There is no way they will find out about the settlement before the May 2009 opt-out deadline."

Boni's response was that Google must abide by opt-outs or face the court for breach. He said the notice program is "universal and extremely comprehensive. Every country with a treaty with the US will get notice." [Authorlink’s understanding is that every author worldwide whose out-of-print book has been scanned by Google must be notified by the end of May 2009.]

Grimble said "The important part is that the settlement is based on a massive violation of copyright law."

Boni said: The issue was to make available the majority of out of print books, whose rightsholders could not be found. The notice program will enable these rightsholders to come forward and protect their rights, and benefit from the settlement."

Boni invited Ms. Grimble to contact him for clarification.

The nature of the settlement is extremely complex. Authorlink urges authors to read the lengthy settlement and also public comments in order to know what they are opting into or out of. Essentially, every author is affected by the Google agreement in one way or another. Authors whose books have already been scanned only have until the end of May to respond to notices asking them to opt in or out of the Google program.

The forthcoming Book Rights Registry will initially be paid by Google to set up a non-profit rights clearing house, which later will collect fees from authors who opt into the Google program–up to 20% out of the rightsholder's already slim profit margin from Google sales.

Authors and publishers can leave comments on the subject at www.authorlink.blogspot.com .