Sunday, May 03, 2009

Is GBS The Best of a Bad Job?

As expected people are starting to realise that the Google Book Settlement delay is a wakeup call to at least consider the future of publishing, library archive, bookselling and access to literature. Some may say whatever happens happens and we are in the main debating the past, others that we are debating the future of our access to information and literature, others that we must focus on the future works and leave the orphans to sort themselves out.

We were asked two questions by a good friend yesterday and would like to share our response today.

1. Do you have any suggestion of an alternative solution OTHER than Congress passing sensible new copyright law covering orphans?

No I respect the law is the law and it there for a purpose if the law were to be amended I would respect that. Back door law changes are often fraught with loop holes as they have often lacked the debate, analysis and hearing that the process of law should allow.

2. If not, can you explain why it is any more likely that Congress will do that now, or if the settlement is rejected, than in the half-century just past?

The issue is raised, there are many now starting to debate the issue the European Arrow initiative is starting to gather ground. Law doesn’t get changed easily or quickly that it is why it often endures and offers substance and continuity. Libraries, institutions, authors, publishers citizens should lobby for change and make change happen. Accepting second best or something you know is bad or at best leaking is no excuse. How many US people or bodies have asked for change?

If there is no solution BUT Congress and there is no solution likely to be coming FROM Congress, then the Google monopoly and all the dollars they're going to extract for the content has to be weighed against the value of what we agree people are apparently willing to pay a lot for continuing to be withheld from the public. I am really tired of the "parade of imagined horribles" with no attempt to create a context.

Sometime the publishing community has to stand up and be counted. You are either for or against the settlement. If you want to sit on the fence then that helps no one move forward. There appears to be no ground to amend and revisit and I believe some bodies will no use the 4 month period to review their position. I don’t know the answer but know whatever it is it will change publishing in the future.

1 comment:

Michael W. Perry said...

I'm one of the seven authors whose letter to the court led to the four-month delay. Since the others include writers as well known as John Steinbeck, I tell friends that I was added to represent the large, "Who's he?" class of writers. As Lincoln said about the common people, there are a lot of us.

As you point out, the delay has transformed the game, ending what seemed to be an easy end run around Congress for Google. Opponents now have more time to act and doubters more time to think. Professional bodies representing libraries and giant corporations the size of Google move slowly, but they have begun to move.

Two weeks ago, the only hope for many European writers was an unpleasant, after-the-fact reaction by their governments. Now there's a possibility that European officials will cite well-established treaties to challenge key provisions in the settlement.

European writers have good reason to oppose this settlement. Far too little has been said about a key provision, one Google mentions in their FAQ. The automatic opt-in for copyright holders who do nothing applies to virtually every copyright holder in any country that has a copyright agreement with the U.S., which is virtually every country in the world. I briefly describe why at:

If they do nothing, writers around the world will eventually discover that, without their knowledge or consent, this settlement gave Google permission to use their copyrighted materials online and stripped them of the right to sue for infringement in U.S. courts.Those who'd like to examine the key legal documents in this dispute and find links to what is happening in Europe can visit a webpage I've established for posting such things.

Hopefully, soon there will be an English-language, European-based website covering this dispute. I'm too far away and too linguistically challenged to do it myself.

--Michael W. Perry, Seattle