Sunday, November 22, 2009

‘Pieces of Eight’ Part 1

Today we hear all about the world of DRM (Digital Rights management), copyright, pirates, and a wide debate on what is fair use and what is infringement. The whole Google Book Settlement started out as a case action against Google for copyright infringement. The consequence of it being settled out of court means the case was never proven. This has offered Google the opportunity to put ‘chump change’ down on the table and being given the spoils and much more. It now has even got better as they now renegotiated a revised settlement and got even more for the same money! New plaintiffs such as the UK, Canada and Australia are now drawn into the settlement with no extra cash on the table!

It beggars belief how no one asked for more money for what could be seen as the global literary works of the English language.

The UK Publishers Association has worked hard to fight piracy both in the physical and digital world. We have previously written about the system they developed which allows publishers to log the details of an infringement of copyright. The system automatically sends a ‘take down’ demand to the offending website and logs offences. This is a good start but sadly is reactive not proactive. However the Internet by it shear viral nature, makes the finding and issuing take down notices reactive not proactive and shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

As more e-book and smartphone readers appear and joined by online services such as Google Edition, Scribd, Wattpad, the number of illegal copies is likely to grow and controlling them become even harder.

Simon Juden, CEO of UK Publisher Association now has a seat at the Google settlement table and has effectively now made the UK a plaintiff in a US law case. He is quoted in the Bookseller saying, ‘The deal originated from Google taking actions that we still think broke the rules. I don’t think anyone feels comfortable about that.’
Some will say that the industry is now caught between prosecutions and doing a deal with the thieves based not on acceptance of guilt, but on their size and ability to pay their way out of the litigation. Why should one pirate be treated differently than another?

1 comment:

Inkling said...

No one can take second place to me in denouncing just how grossly illegal Google's settlement is. I was one of the seven authors who persuaded the court to extend the settlement's deadlines by six months. It'd be hard to come up with a more open and blatant violation of the Berne convention governing copyright law internationally.

But your article illustrates a sad reality in legal disputes, the side with the smartest lawyers and deepest financial pockets typically wins. That's true even in the best of situations. It's even more true in this unfortunate situation, where Google's opponents have other agendas, most of which revolve around getting Google money.

What the Authors Guild leadership cares most about is getting Google money to fulfill their dream for a Book Rights Registry. Any settlement that does that is apparently good enough for them. That's why they supported the original settlement, which so clearly screwed the same non-English speaking authors that have, for the most part, been excluded from this revision. That revision wasn't the AG's doing. They were happy with the original settlement. It was forced on the parties involved by legal protests from governments representing foreign authors.

Even worse is Michael Boni, who is an intellectually unimpressive and weak, 'beta-male' sort of lawyer from the perspective those he's tasked by the court to defend, the 'aiuthor's subclass.' (I've talked with him on the phone.) Authors need only ask themselves if they've ever written a check to him to realize who he is, in effect, working for. His check for services rendered in this case, a bit over $30 million for he and his colleagues, will come from Google, should this settlement go through.

Even the judge in this case is now inside a cloud of suspicion. Google was, by far and above, the Obama campaign's largest Silicon Valley contributor. They, no doubt, want payback for that money and nothing matters more to them than this settlement. That is the context in which to view the fact that the district judge is this case was formally promoted to the Second Circuit appeals court the very day before he announced in court his desire to rush through the new settlement with limited time for criticism from those most affected by it. It may or may not be a fix, but it certainly smells of one.

'The one who pays the fiddler calls the tune' is all anyone needs to know to understand this settlement. It is being driven by Google money, lots and lots of money for the parties involved, a mere pittance, if that, for authors like you and I.

--Michael W. Perry, Seattle