We have stated long and hard our thoughts on the proposed Google Book Settlement and have probably written more about that than anything else. In our opinion it proposes a major change on copyright via a back door and our primary position has been against the mass adoption of orphan works and the continued ‘scan first ask later’ attitude of Google. The amended proposal which goes before the court on 18th of this month makes no changes to the fundamental flaws within the original settlement. Many have been confused by the complexity of the settlement, many believed that because it was drawn up by their superiors it made sense, many were merely sleepwalking into change. However the numbers of objectors has swelled, publishers, authors, even governments have stood up and questioned it. No one has been balloted and industry bodies have shuffled and claimed support from the silent majority. The amendment even widened the plaintiffs blindly bringing in countries such as the UK and Australia.
Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice filed a statement with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. They clearly state that "substantial issues remain" within the revised settlement and that it "suffers from the same core problem", and could give Google a "significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages." The DOJ state that it "remains committed" to working with Google and other parties in the case on the settlement's content.
The hearing still has to happen on the 18th and the dust has to settle, but we hope that finally the industry will wake up. Publishing is about rights; their development, use and trading. It is amazing that as such we as an industry still lack a registry and clear framework to manage and clear these sensibly and that orphans are use as pawns in settlements, their rights given away without recall and we accept one rule for one and another for everyone else.
We hope that GBS is teaching us and whatever happens moving forward it will act as a clear sanity check to us all as we grapple with rights in a Digital Age.
I'm growing to the opinion that the book settlement is turning all works into public domain by default, and that Google hopes to monetise the public domain. That is public domain as in publicly available not without rights. But MP3s have shown availability is all that's needed.
When anything is put on the internet it's hard to remove; someone somewhere will have a copy. All Google are doing is providing a sales channel.
Fair enough they've outsmarted the publishers on this settlement. It's even worse for British authors as there is a law requiring publishers to send copies of books to British libraries. And it's from libraries that Google are scanning the works.
Publishers should start looking at where Google are getting their source material and perhaps explicitly prohibit scanning. Isn't there something about retrieval systems in the verso page of books? There certainly used to be.
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