Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grimmelman Speaks Up On The Google Settlement

As the Google settlement draws ever closer everyone is increasingly being asked to stand up and be counted and some of the real position start to become clearer.

We would recommend James Grimmelman’s article ‘Speaking Up On Book Search’ Grimmlemann, the The New York Law School's Institute for Information Law and Policy and their lawyers Kornstein Veisz Wexler & Pollard, LLP have asked the court hearing the Google Book Search case to let them file a brief amicus curiae. Their brief will explain to the court why the case is all about the orphans.

The linked article also contains the letter of submission to the court.

There are those who want to change contracts and have ob reflection always done so. The want rights reversals to be anything of the past and to use POD and ebooks to effectively keep books in print. The only problem is that the original contract didn’t always know the future. Some want the change the revenue spilt and may belong interestingly to the previous group too.

There are those who actually want to free the orphan works and have fought hard to push legislation through to achieve this end. These are not passed yet but are close. They genuinely want lost books to be available for all in a similar way that public domain works are today. The challenge as always is the lack of records and the further back towards 192X you go the murkier it becomes.

There are those who want to revisit copyright full stop and believe that extending copyright from 56 years to life plus 75 years was a mistake and is should come down as it doesn't serve the public.

Some will support Google’s current settlement as a means to an end and not perfect but better than today. These may also believe that anyone can opt out and if they don’t can collect retrospectively. They will accept the digital exclusive monopoly that will be created because they believe it to be in the public interest. Some may say that where the US goes others will follow and we all know Google emissaries are working hard to spread the word.

So, we face a moral question whether if is right to take and seek legal blessing to do so, works that the law doesn’t permit today. The agreement is about whether those not represented can be and whether the change should be universal to all or restricted to one company to commercially exploit to the legal exclusion of others?
As an industry everyone is negligent in not building a rights repository and clearing house but some would argue that to be bribed into having one is not necessarily justification for granting exclusive rights to works whose ownership today is unclear.

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