Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Google Book Settlement

I used to like Google.
It's not that I mind them taking photographs of my street. It's not even that I mind them putting paid adverts at the top of the list when I use their search engine. But when they decide - without asking the authors permission - to scan copyrighted material into a database, which they intend to make available on a commercial basis...
Over the last few years, Google has been digitising copies of books in the US to make available via a book search service. Some US publishers have signed up to this. Fair enough. It has also been scanning books held in US libraries. This includes work in copyright. Your work? My work?
The claim they are making is that only portions of the books will be made available this way and thus it is covered by 'fair use' in copyright law. Some publishers and authors do not agree. Where does this lead? To the law courts. But that is an expensive process for all. Thus a settlement is being reached - on your behalf, if you happen to have a book in a US library.
It seems at present as if there may be a small initial payment made to all authors whose work has been scanned without permission. That would be followed by a share of Google's revenue stream earned from the author's work.
But all is not clear. A website has been set up in connection with administering the settlement. If you have books in US libraries, it might be worth having a visit. That's what I have been doing this morning. Another website with information is the ALCS.

The situation is unclear. If you have an agent or a publisher, it might be worth asking them for advice on this question.

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