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Beware the Google Book Settlement?

I don't know much about IP, nor the class-action litigation against Google for digitizing books, but this op-ed by Lynn Chu makes me think I should be concerned about the suit's potential settlement.

After Google began digitizing the University of Michigan library in 2004, the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and a handful of authors and publishers filed a class-action lawsuit for copyright infringement. Last November, those "class representatives" reached an out-of-court settlement with Google that would, if approved by the federal court, permit Google to post out-of-print books for reading, sales, institutional licensing, ad sales, and other publishing exploitations, by Google, online. The settlement gives the class-action attorneys $30 million; a new, quasi-judicial bureaucracy called the Book Rights Registry $35 million (more on this later); and $45 million for owners infringed up to now -- about $60 a title. It remains subject to a final fairness hearing, slated for June 11.

No one elected these "class representatives" to represent America's tens of thousands of authors and publishers to convey their digital rights to Google. Nor are the interests of this so-called class identical. There is nothing more individual in the world than a book, an author, a publisher, and the value of a contract. The aging baby boomers now flacking the settlement don't seem to understand that PDF scanning (how Google and everyone else digitizes books) isn't rocket science; it's cheap and easy. Books will be digitized without Google. But the Google settlement sets in amber today's overhyped role of the Internet, ruled by that great and magnificent Oz -- Google.

Sound like hyperbole? Consider this: Under the settlement, every rights-owner in America is supposed to hand over all their private contract data, on every edition of every work they ever wrote -- and every excerpt permission ever granted to others -- at the peril of losing the money Google will be making on their backs. This is a massive burden on everyone in the book industry, making us all, in effect, Google's data-entry slaves. Indeed, in most cases such information about every permission ever granted is unlocatable. It opens a Pandora's box of disputes and mistaken claims about who actually owns what.

I would be interested to hear what those who know more about copyright, and the specific claims at issue here, think about this.

Bulb:
A searchable database containing the full text of every book in the world, accessible to anyone with a computer and the internet? I think that's awesome. Maybe one of the greatest research and educational tools I could think of.

"The Internet was supposed to eliminate middlemen, not pack multiple layers on."

Oh, that's what the Internet "was supposed" to do?
Yes, it's the Internet that's getting in the way of progress! "We already have a good system. It's called the system of private property and free contract." Yes, and the settlement agreement is a free contract. A rightsholder does NOT have to join - she can opt out.

"Under the settlement, every rights-owner in America is supposed to hand over all their private contract data, on every edition of every work they ever wrote -- and every excerpt permission ever granted to others -- at the peril of losing the money Google will be making on their backs. This is a massive burden on everyone in the book industry, making us all, in effect, Google's data-entry slaves."

All that slaving, that back-breaking...writing? I don't get this last point - the authors don't need to do any data-entry.

The article fails to mention that Google will be MAKING authors money - maybe a lot more money than regular print-edition royalties.

The settlement says: "For out-of print Books and, if permitted by Rightsholders of in-print Books, Google will be able to sell access to individual Books and institutional subscriptions to the database, place advertisements on any page dedicated to a Book, and make other commercial uses of Books. At any time, Rightsholders can change instructions to Google regarding those uses. Through a Book Rights Registry established by the settlement, Google will pay Rightsholders 63% of all revenues from these uses.
3.30.2009 12:45am
Bulb:
Google also agrees to pay $15.5M to the Association of American Publishers.

And from the FAQ:

Can Rightsholders request that their works NOT be available on Google?

Books: Yes. Rightsholders of Books have two options under the Settlement, removal or exclusion.

Rightsholders can request Google to remove one or more of their Books if they have already been digitized, or request Google not to digitize a Book at all. Rightsholders have the right to remove a Book from the Google Library Project by request received on or before April 5, 2011. After April 5, 2011, Google will honor "do not digitize" requests if Google has, as of the date of that request, not already digitized the Book.

Rightsholders of Books can request instead that their Books be excluded by Google. With exclusion, Rightsholders can manage which Display Uses they wish Google to make of their Books, and change these elections over time. Exclusion means that the Book will not be displayed in one or more Display Uses by Google (although the Book will not be deleted from all servers by Google or the Participating Libraries as in the case of removal).
3.30.2009 12:56am
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I have a hard time seeing this case meeting the predominance requirement for class action adjudication. Given the individual nature of each publishing contract this simply seems like a huge mess.

Hopefully there will be enough opt-outs that the settlement gets killed.
3.30.2009 1:13am
Tatil:

Hopefully there will be enough opt-outs that the settlement gets killed.

How would that be beneficial to anybody, including the readers or the authors of out of print books?
3.30.2009 3:12am
Brad Richards (mail):
Google wants to offer a service: making out-of-print books available online. They face a fundamental problem: where works are still under copyright, they have to find the rights holder and negotiate a contract. In many cases, it's very difficult to find the rights holder, to say nothing of negotiating and administering a zillion different contracts.

This problem only exists because copyright has been extended beyond all reason. However, that is the situation and Google had to come up with a solution: a default contract.

They are also - quite blatantly - paying off certain organisations. Apparently Lynn Chu is not a member of one of these.

Yes, Google expects to earn money with the project - despite what some idealists might wish, that is what companies do. However, having essentially all out-of-print books available online will be a huge boon to society. Everyone wins, what's the problem?
3.30.2009 7:10am
David Hecht (mail):
"Google expects to earn money with the project - despite what some idealists might wish, that is what companies do. However, having essentially all out-of-print books available online will be a huge boon to society. Everyone wins, what's the problem?"

I am all for that in principle. The problem is that "out of print" often does not mean "out of copyright", and furthermore, the author may not have direct control of his IP, since--at least in the old days, in the world of fiction--you had to hand over pretty much all your IP rights to the publisher in order to get access to markets at all (shades of the RIAA and the MPAA, eh?).

Jerry Pournelle has discussed this extensively on his website, Chaos Manor. When I was helping with the Vance Integral Edition--a project to take all of Jack Vance's works and republish them in a high-quality hardbound version--one of the biggest problems was getting the (in many cases extinct) publishers to acquiesce to releasing control of Vance's copyrights back to him.

Finally, I find it curious that if someone like me digitizes something and publishes it on the web without the consent of the author, it's piracy, but when Google does it, it's OK.
3.30.2009 8:45am
DiverDan (mail):

Yes, and the settlement agreement is a free contract. A rightsholder does NOT have to join - she can opt out.


Just why should an author (who may or may not even KNOW about the Settlement) have to take affirmative action to "opt out" when they never even affirmatively elected these "Class Representatives" as their literary agents, NOR did they ever hire the Class Counsel as their Lawyers, in the first place? What happened to the rule of Copyright Law that a written, signed instrument is necessary for the assignment of copyright? What happened to Due Process, which requires, at a minimum, NOTICE and a MEANINGFUL opportunity to be heard, when authors who haven't even HEARD of the proposed Settlement can be bound by its terms? Frankly, this looks a lot like so many other "Settlements" of Class Actions which are nothing more than scams to enrich the Lawyers and the so-called "Class Representatives". In this case, there really shouldn't be any "unknown" Class Members (though some on older works may be dead or hard to find) -- If they have a list of every work of authorship that Google is going to digitize, then they have at the very least the names of the authors; make them get a list of authors and make every reasonable opportunity to give them written notice of the Suit, the Settlement, and an opportunity to affirmatively "Opt IN". Otherwise, this looks like the nominal Plaintiffs were simply acting in concert with Google to make it easier and cheaper for Google to get a universal license for copyrights that Google couldn't otherwise get without a lot of effort.
3.30.2009 8:58am
highway61:
As long as we're on the copyright subject: I notice that this post copies 3 paragraphs of the 10 in the original op-ed. How much of an article can be copied onto one's blog before the copying is too much? Or is it okay to simply copy the entire article? Is there a VC standard in this regard?
3.30.2009 9:16am
Bulb:

Just why should an author (who may or may not even KNOW about the Settlement) have to take affirmative action to "opt out"


Because those are the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure?

That's how the law works: someone steps on your rights, and then you have to affirmatively sue him for liability. I don't know why you assume the Constitution magically and automatically just gives everyone who deserves it a remedy, without the process of a trial or pre-trial settlement.

An author is FREE, as an individual, to sue Google for copyright infringement.

And just because an author refuses to open his mail and read the Notice does not make this unfair.

Most importantly, a Rightsholder [= an author who didn't, for whatever reason, opt out in time] "can exclude their books from some or all of these [commercial] uses...Rightsholders can also remove their Books altogether from the electronic Books database (if already digitized) so long as the request is made on or before April 5, 2011. Rightsholders at any time can request Google not to digitize their books, and Google will honor the request."

As I mentioned earlier, this could be a boon to many authors, who will take in big royalties from advertising (and other income) that Google makes: "Plaintiffs view the Settlement as an excellent opportunity to breathe new commercial life into potentially tens of millions of out-of-print Books, and to provide an innovative marketing tool for authors and publishers of in-print Books....Google will pay Rightsholders, through the Registry, 63% of all revenues...."

Class certification is getting more and more difficult. In Re Hydrogen Peroxide. This whole thing might fail. We'll find out this summer.
3.30.2009 9:54am
Curt Fischer:
If I were publishers, I would be starting my own out-of-print digitization effort, and be vociferously objecting to Google's plan.

I agree that digitization is a win for society and for authors, so I think thethird paragraph that Prof. Adler excerpts from Lynn Chu is a bit over the top. But the second paragraph is right on!

Creating a "Book Rights Registry" would raise the barrier to entry into the online-digitized-books market and make it more difficult for other non-Google players to compete. If you have to "opt out" to choose a competitor, that's a huge advantage for Google.

Less competition means more rent-seeking by Google, extraction of a greater share of the advertising revenue by Google, less money for authors, and more inconvenience in the form of forced ad-views for browsers.
3.30.2009 10:42am
Dan Hamilton:
You fail to talk about the real reason for this class action. The Lawyers.

Why do the Lawyers care what the settlement is? As long as they don't look to bad.

The Lawyers made 30 Million!!!

You think this was about copyrights? About book contracts?

No, some lawyers saw what Google was doing. Infringing on copyrights and knew that they could make millions. No individule weriter or publisher could sue Google but if the Lawyers brought a Class Action and make millions while the people they were supposely helping made peanuts.

The Lawyers like ALMOST ALL Class Action lawyers care more about the money (the millions they can make from settlements) then what the people they are supposed to represent ever get.

I once got a $25 dollar coupon off on the purchase of a new monitor. The Lawyers got millions.

Please don't act like this was for the writers.

It was by the attorneys and for the attorneys.

The attorneys got their's. Google doesn't have to worry about this any more. And the little people get screwd.

Want to hear the real plan.

Google planned from the first to be sued. They knew who would be the Class Action attorneys. It was all planned. More jobs (Book Rights Registry) for attorneys and those jobs are always expensive. Now Coogle is free to do what it wants. The little people have to work through the Book Rights Registry.

Google is Happy. The Lawyers are Happy. The little people should be Happy that they didn't get a coupon on their next PDF book buy from Google.
3.30.2009 11:21am
Bulb:

I once got a $25 dollar coupon off on the purchase of a new monitor. The Lawyers got millions.


The lawyers put in years of hard work.

What did you do for that $25? Not much. It was just handed to you.

The "little people" don't have to be part of the settlement.
3.30.2009 11:36am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Actually, I am in favor of this settlement and have written about why I think it is a positive step forward in restoring balances of copyright law elsewhere.

However, what the settlement does is recognize that out of print works are fundamentally different from works that are under active distribution. I have been arguing for something like this for a long time and would like to see COMPULSATORY LICENSING for out of print works. While the Google settlement doesn't get us there, I think it is an important step in the right direction.

The basic thing is that the areas that people find objectionable in the settlement affect only books which are no longer in print. Google's royalties in these cases are quite high.

Also this is a win for the little folks. The folks who are likely to be annoyed are people who intentionally take works with registered copyright off the market and object to returning them to the market. IMO, this represents theft of public resources anyway (in the sense that copyright is supposed to be a quid quo pro and this removes that aspect).
3.30.2009 11:38am
einhverfr (mail) (www):

This problem only exists because copyright has been extended beyond all reason. However, that is the situation and Google had to come up with a solution: a default contract.


Another possible solution would require copyright reform. It would be that when a book is taken out of print, the author would immediately see all exclusive licenses involved terminate, as a matter of statute, and would have 1 year to bring the book back to active distribution (self-publishing or otherwise) in order to see the copyright term continue. Works which have been out of print for more than a year would become public domain.
3.30.2009 11:41am
Curt Fischer:
I'm no copyright expert, but I don't see how this is a win for little guys.

Why can't they scan their manuscript themselves, host it on a web page, and use Google AdSense to make money from traffic to their site? That would result in MORE money for them, at least potentially.
3.30.2009 11:53am
billb:
Curt: The little guys likely don't own their copyrights. They might get sued by their publishers!

And, who's to say it would net them more money? Google's book search is likely to drive more traffic to a book (via cross-refs, better OCR, etc.) than an author's page which also, btw, costs the author to host. Google scans, OCRs (for in-line searching), and hosts the works for free.

Finally, if an author is willing to do such a thing for their book, they ought to be able to let Google know and opt out. Given my first point above, though, if an author of an out-of-print work has a problem with anyone, it should be the publisher. The author likely doesn't own the copyright, so he can't digitize it himself and put it up without fear of a lawsuit, and the publisher certainly isn't going to go to the expense to scan and OCR the book without some sort of system to monetize it. And since Google is the web ad monetization king, I doubt a publisher could compete successfully with Google on this front.
3.30.2009 12:00pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
There is no way you are going to get such a copyright termination through. Deliberately taking products off the market is a huge part of Disney's market strategy. Probably less so for books but there are companies that use that business modle.

There are however books I've seen go out of print only to re-appear when a new volumeis ready for a series.

I find that practice far less objectionable than Congress extending the copyright term.
3.30.2009 12:00pm
Charles Chalmers (mail) (www):
I don't really know the merits of the settlement, although I've spent some time studying it. It is vastly complicated and that alone is great reason for pause. I think the trial judge should appoint a guardian ad litum (guardian for the litigation) for the class, so that someone does a through job of critiquing the settlement.

However, as a lawyer active in the class action field, by representing objectors to settlements or attorneys' fees, I do have one serious criticism. It is my opinion that a class action settlement can not, as a matter of law, grant the defendant(s), or anyone else, future rights in a class member's property. Rule 23, the basis for federal class actions, only allows the representative parties (name plaintiffs) to represent class members with respect to "claims." Granting future rights in copyrights is not a claim. I think such a settlement is outside the authority granted by Rule 23. I also think that under well established law the court may lack personal jurisdiction over the class members for the purpose of granting rights to their copyrights.

This issue is presented as an objection to the Freelance class action settlement, which has a similar structure. That case is on appeal, but has been greatly delayed by a ruling in the Court of Appeal that the courts do not have jurisdiction to approve a settlement that includes unregistered copyrights. That issue is now before the Supreme Court.
3.30.2009 12:34pm
Michael T:
The irony is that the authors and publishers sued because Google's project was "opt out" and not "opt in." The class-action lawsuit is, of course, "opt out."
3.30.2009 12:42pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
There's a serious practical problem with tracking down rights holders to books which have been out of print for thirty years and asking them for permission. In many cases the original author is dead and the heirs either don't know or don't care about the work ... and rightly so, because if there's no money in it, why would you care?

Yet there is a public interest in having many of these works available. Absent copyright reform, which we aren't going to get because Disney and its allies won't let it happen, how do we make abandoned out-of-print works available?
3.30.2009 1:00pm
Robert West (mail) (www):
The little guys likely don't own their copyrights. They might get sued by their publishers!

This generally isn't true for books; generally speaking the author owns the copyright and only licenses certain rights to the publisher. For many of the works which are now out of print, the question of digital rights never arose at the time of contract negotiation - being an unheard of form of rights - and so they were retained by the author.

This is different, of course, for works for hire.
3.30.2009 1:05pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
Again, how do you distinuish between out of print and abandoned works? While abandoned works are for the most part out of print there are plenty of out of print works that are not abanded by any rational measure.
3.30.2009 1:14pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Michael T:

The irony is that the authors and publishers sued because Google's project was "opt out" and not "opt in." The class-action lawsuit is, of course, "opt out."


And so is the result of the settlement.

Soronel Haetir:

Again, how do you distinuish between out of print and abandoned works? While abandoned works are for the most part out of print there are plenty of out of print works that are not abanded by any rational measure.


I think they should be treated as the same. The question is what we expect to gain, as a society, from granting copyright. Ideally the quid quo pro is that the work remains available and eventually enters the public domain. If a book is rendered unavailable, it is quite possible that the paper won't survive long enough for the work to enter the public domain.

With modern print-on-demand services there is no real excuse to remove works from market availability. I think we SHOULD reform copyright law to REQUIRE public distribution of the work as a part of the quid quo pro.
3.30.2009 1:47pm
Lynn Chu (mail) (www):
There are 3 choices here. First, to "Opt in" to a contract that will subject your ownership of rights to a determination by Google (which publishers are likelier than you to win under their often adhesive contracts), eliminates federal jurisdiction, and binds you to arbitration. If you are absolutely certain you and you alone own your rights, you might want to do this. Before you do, though, (a) you had better have your actual reversion letter in hand and (b) you had better look at exactly what those "reversion letters" say, particularly any phrases like the reversion is subject to any and all "licenses." Many media companies have, of late, in an effort to trick the naive, been sending out "reversion letters" that in fact regrant rights in toto to themselves. If you have no written reversion letter or quitclaim, but just "assume" you own your out of print book because you were the author, you had best rethink. You don't, so far as Google and its allegedly independent "Registry" is concerned. They have their own self-invented rules of thumb on whether you have any rights or not, based on their reading of the exact wording of whatever documents your or your ex publisher might produce to them.

Second is the "Opt out" choice. In that case--as Google, AAP and Author's Guild are now out threatening everyone--you will forever be cut off from the benefits of the settlement, with its likely 50/50 split when the day is done. Rather, you will forever after be discriminated against by Google and forced to sign the obscenely disadvantageous "Google Partner" agreement, in which you get practically nothing, if you ever want to deal with Google again. Opting out means all works of yours that you alert them to under this option will forever be blacked out from Google. But, gee, you don't want to do that, either--and why should you? In essence, all "opt out" really is, is a technique for Google to get you to head's up them of your intention to sue, so that they can, forever after, treat you abusively.

The third option, which I recommend, is "ignore." Be an "orphan." A private class action is NOT an act of Congress which changes the law of property or of copyright. A good rule of thumb to all is: always ignore non-negotiable 385 page contracts that subordinate your exclusive rights to layers of bureaucracies who demand to have unlimited expense accounts and large, non-negotiable guaranteed profit shares based on undefined "net receipts."

This class action has to be recognized for what it is--a PR stunt. It is to make the naive, who don't particularly care to inspect 385 pages of legalese or evaluate all the copyright, antitrust, publishing, constitutional, and class action legal implications (and that's basically all of us), think, gosh, the "law" has now somehow been magically changed--hey, a "court" is involved. We must all now, zombie-like "register," with Google, and proceed to prove that we own our rights to them to their satisfaction, else be infringed.

It is also a mafiosi-like threat: an offer you can't refuse. Here's the kneecapping: if a false claimant, such as one's ex publisher, or an anthologist you once permitted for a teensy fee geared to their minuscule print publication, fraudulently registers ownership (by uploading, say, an Excel spreadsheet of all books they ever published), then snorkels up your money, it will all be unbeknownst to you. Your contract with that publisher as of now is terminated, yet may, by various vague old terms, superficially allow this and also permit them not to pay you any part of it. How will you ever know what they're getting or claiming, if you don't "register" at Google and bow to Google's rules (the most important to Google being, no federal court ever, only OUR new self-invented rules of copyright and contract)? The Google digitization was, after all, of a volume the registering publisher once published. So, to Google, they still seem to own it. Catch 22. You'll never know if someone else is collecting your cash—unless you too, "submit."

Before you freak out and capitulate to this dastardly scheme, remember that this "settlement," between these private parties, has NO power to alter the law of contracts, or of copyright. Under the Constitution they simply may not impose brand new registry burdens on an entire uninvolved class of people or deprive every copyright owner of their right to sue infringers for their infringement in federal court. Class actions do not impose burdens on a "class," they only confer its essentially contractual benefits on those who "opt in." If Google in fact infringes you in their published dbase later, just pay a visit to your local lawyer and sue that Google deep pocket, individually, for the $150,000 statutory remedy the law allows per infringement. En masse. If you like, give your lawyer half of the recovery to pick up court costs so it is no skin off your back. Should be a slam dunk, and if you settle, you'll get thousands minimum, per infringement, not $60. Lawyers who routinize this process for individuals might make more than in doing any "class action."

What Google is really angling for here is to obtain and control a world database of all rights ownership information—to to God knows what with—plus have the right to know who is reading and buying what of all world literature. It is an Orwellian, Big Brotherish move that everyone who cares about individual autonomy, freedom of contract, personal privacy, private property, and the health of a non-collectivized free market diverse economy, ought to fight tooth and nail. It ought to frighten Google's publishing competitors, if they were not all gaming now to line up at its spout.

I might also suggest that anyone who cares about private property rights, individual autonomy, freedom of contract, or personal privacy, consider logging on to Google's Opt Out and Opt In system, and clutter it up with fake data, thus sabotaging this collectivization scheme.
3.30.2009 1:47pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Also one more thought. I am in the process of digitizing a work which is nearly 100 years old with the idea that it is an important and underrated work and a new edition (with my footnotes, etc) might be successful on the market.

PDF scanning is not rocket science, but it isn't cheap and easy either, especially when one is dealing with paper which has aged a bit, old type-faces, and the like. Once you get the OCR error rate under control, you still have multiple proofreading passes which have to happen, so that you don't get funny results.

For exarnple, consider this senterice witn obvibus OCR enrors.

This effort goes up with the age of the book, as paper can degrade in ways we might not see but might throw the scanner, and some older typesetting practices can be hard on OCR (for example, if you have embedded sidebars in a different font size). I expect to spent around 100 hours (probably quite a bit more) digitizing this book and most of it is fairly basic work, but requires a reasonable amount of skill and effort.

I also think one element of the terms of the settlement ought to be PUBLIC ACCESS to the Google rights database so that things aren't effectively monopolized in the same way.
3.30.2009 1:57pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
einhverfr,

All of that is fine, but it ignores the law as it currently stands. While it might be nice to alter what copyright is, that has not happened. Nor is it particularly like to do so given the massively divergent views on how it should be changed.

I certainly hope the commentors saying that such a settlement cannot give Google any sort of right over other people's work are correct.
3.30.2009 1:58pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Lynn Chu:

I submitted my book to Google Books. I think the service is quite helpful for authors and publishers.

Now, I submitted it as a PDF so they wouldn't have to digitize it, and I notice that they cut out some sections (the bibliography, and resource list :-( ), but all in all, I think it is quite a good service.

Having said this, I have no regard for the Authors' Guild. I do however, think it is in the public interest to see these old works become more publicly available. I don't see the problem with false registration as being a big issue because it could be better handled by civil litigation anyway and even making the whole thing an opt-in system would have that problem anyway.
3.30.2009 2:05pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Solomon Haetir:

Agreed that we need copyright reform. Also agreed that the Google books settlement may face significant and legitimate challenges relating to jurisdiction.

I just don't think it is a bad deal for everyone, and I think that the settlement IS in the fiduciary interest of the classes.
3.30.2009 2:08pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Agreed that we need copyright reform. Also agreed that the Google books settlement may face significant and legitimate challenges relating to jurisdiction.
While there may be a need for copyright reform here, it really isn't apparent from the thread. However, it does appear that there is a significant need for reform of class action lawsuits.
3.30.2009 2:38pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
With all due respect to Ms. Chu, the proposal that one simply ignore a class action settlement (rather than opting out, or filing an objection) seems like extremely poor legal advice.
3.30.2009 2:46pm
Arturito:

Absent copyright reform, which we aren't going to get because Disney and its allies won't let it happen, how do we make abandoned out-of-print works available?

We make it profitable! Just like Google is trying to do. Greed is good, greed works.
3.30.2009 2:51pm
Bulb:
Ignoring the settlement is a bad idea.


What Google is really angling for here is to obtain and control a world database of all rights ownership information—to to God knows what with—plus have the right to know who is reading and buying what of all world literature.


I assume you meant to write "to do God knows what".

Well, I'm not God, but it seems obvious what Google wants to do:

They want people to read books on Google, and make money by selling advertising [the book-readers, during their book-reading, will view advertisements, whether they like it or not.] If everyone is reading books on Google, then everyone is looking at the embedded ads.
3.30.2009 3:13pm
NickM (mail) (www):
I called an elderly author I know who hasn't published anything in over a decade, but who put out about 20 novels. He had never been informed about this class action suit.
How are his due process rights being protected by this sort of opt-out class action?

Nick
3.30.2009 3:56pm
Ariel:
Lynn Chu,

Thanks for the great article and comments.

I also liked the point made by Curt Fischer above, about this being a move by Google to corner the market. By forcing authors to opt out, Google is seeking to make sure that they are the only (or at least the default) game in town. Even if you'd like everything digital, there ought to be some antitrust concerns with that sort of behavior.
3.30.2009 3:58pm
Kirk:
If everyone is reading books on Google, then everyone is looking at the embedded ads.
Speak for yourself.

I have a highly-developed ad-ignorer, and to the best of my knowledge have never once bought anything from a previous-unknown vendor based upon a chance encounter with one of their internet ads. It's a different matter when I'm deliberately looking to buy something--but even then, whether it's the result of a Google search or of following a link passed on by someone I know, the result is a manufacturer's or vendor's web site or shopping cart, not a product advertisement appearing on a "content" site.
3.30.2009 4:13pm
Bulb:
Kirk,

Everyone thinks "advertising doesn't work on ME."

The reality is advertising works. And that Google makes a ton of money from advertising. And Google's entire digitalize-everything scheme centers around advertising revenue from ads placed around the "pages" of the online books.



I have a highly-developed ad-ignorer


What does this mean? Is this some sort of software? Or are you just talking about your imperviousness to advertising?
3.30.2009 5:10pm
billb:
Bulb: Kirk likely means that he's using the AdBlock Firefox extension with a very restrictive ruleset. He probably doesn't see any banner ads while browsing the web. He may also not see any text ads like Google AdWords.
3.30.2009 5:33pm
Curious Passerby (mail):
Are there really successful ad blockers? For Macs?

It would seem like that could put Google out of business. And with many businesses like newspapers going to free online versions with ads, an ad blocker could kill the whole Internet!!!

Next they'll make web sites that don't open unless you allow ads.

Then they'll invent ad blockers that are not detectable by the sites...
3.30.2009 5:59pm
Kirk:
Bulb and bilb,

No, not ad-blocking software. I'm just good at ignoring the relatively small ads that appear in banners or side panels on sites like this one. Let me give you an analogy: do you really read every page number and top-of-page running head when you're reading a book? Me neither. :-) Ignoring small ads in fixed locations is just a slightly larger application of the same principle: it's always in the same place, it's not the information I'm interested in, and so it simply doesn't get looked at.
3.30.2009 6:04pm
billb:
Curious: The Firefox AdBlock extension with a comprehensive and regularly updated ruleset (borrowed from someone else on the Intertron) is quite effective.

Kirk: Given that the ads only make money for Google, et al. when you click on them (impression billing has pretty much gone by the way of the dodo, I believe) "ignoring" them is a pretty good strategy. I only deploy AdBlock when an add is too Flash(TM)y for or otherwise obnoxious for my tastes. Google can't (yet) tell if you actually look at the ad, so feel free to look at them--just don't click!
3.30.2009 7:08pm
Joy Butler (mail) (www):
For anyone who wants more information on the nuts and bolts of the settlement agreement, I'm offering a complimentary teleseminar, "What the Google Book Settlement Means to Authors and Publishers", this Thursday, April 2, 2009, at 3:00 p.m. ET. /12:00 p.m. PT.

For more details and to register, visit http://www.joybutler.com/seminarinfo.htm

- Joy Butler, Attorney and Author of The Permission Seeker's Guide Through the Legal Jungle
3.30.2009 9:27pm
one of many:
I have been trying to figure out what the point of all this is from the public's perspective. Out-of-Print no longer means unavailable or even Hard-To-Find,if you can get to Googlebooks you can presumably get Googlesearch and an out of print search will give you access to dozens of online websites with pretty much every out-of-print-but-still-in-copyright book in existence for a reasonable price. There may be a few small print runs which aren't available through these websites but not many and I'm sure the only reason there was an intiial small printing was because there is a small market. Going forward I can see the point of publishing on Googlebooks and I can see a point where books so old that they are rare because of age, but at that point they are out of copyright.

Sure rightholders would get a royaslty from a Googlebook that they wouldn't get from a transfer of copyright with an already published book, and Google would make out but it isn't as if you cannot easily get out-of-print books as a member of the public and there is no need to play games with current copyright law to free up books which are already available.
3.31.2009 4:25pm
Earnest Iconoclast (mail) (www):
The fundamental problem is that copyright terms are no longer limited. Anything that is created during my lifetime will still be in copyright when I die. That is the same thing as unlimited. We should reduce copyright terms to a more reasonable 15-20 years and then this whole issue would become moot.

As always, I would fully support unlimited copyright term for any work that is 100% original (that is, it makes absolutely no use of or reference to any previous work or cultural context or actions of other people or any other previously existing material).
3.31.2009 6:30pm
john dickinson (mail):
The people who are most "screwed" by this settlement are the people who are least likely to make any money off of their IP. So it seems to me that the deal significantly enhances culture without substantially affecting incentives to produce it.
4.1.2009 8:51pm

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