Saturday, April 18, 2009

GBS : Googolopoloy Rules?

Are we sleep walking into the abyss or will common sense prevail over greed and vested interests?

The Google settlement is one of the greatest challenges to publishing yet so many sit idly on the fence uncommitted. It’s understandable that some industry bodies have members who are for and against the settlement and probably many who don’t fully grasp it, or hope that others will sort it out for them. There is no wait and see. There is no fudge it and fix it later. There are no excuse to be undecided. It is coming to the judgement moment and The Google settlement is either acceptable or unacceptable. However, if there is any shadow of doubt, it is better to reject it now, than accept it worth a shrug of the shoulders and a dream of retirement and problems for others to sort out.

Cory Doctrow in his blog today ‘Google Book Search settlement gives Google a virtual monopoly over literature’ makes his points clearly and concisely’ but do people read absorb debate or do they merely cover their eyes and ears and continue to shuffle forward.

Another article from Randy Picker at the Chicago Law School, 'The Google Book Search Settlement: A New Orphan-Works Monopoly?' asks many legal issues and also questions the antitrust question, ‘the level of direct coordination of prices is unlikely to mimic what would result in competition, I have real doubts about whether the consumer access pricing provision would survive a challenge under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.’

‘The opt out class action then is the vehicle for large-scale collective action by active rightsholders. Active rightsholders have little incentive to compete with themselves by granting multiple licenses of their works or of the orphan works.Plus under the terms of the settlement agreement, active rightsholders benefit directly from the revenues attributable to orphan works used in GBS.’

We would also recommend Pam Samuelson's PowerPoint as a summary of the legal issues in the Settlement. Question are raised as to whether scholarly works, which make up much of the corpus, are represented by the Guild and also whether this settlement is a privately negotiated compulsory license to orphan books and therefore a major restructuring of the future of the book industry by the back door.

The questions are now starting to be asked, but are people getting engaged, or are they too busy with today to worry, or even consider tomorrow. It’s taken a change of government in the US to finally wake up to the environment, what will it take for the publishing industry to wake up a smell the coffee?

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