Saturday, August 29, 2009

Google Books

There is an interesting furor that has been building over the past six months about the Google settlement with authors/publishers, which gives them the rights to digitize and make available books on the web. Then we have the Open Content Alliance that is "against" this process. They complain that it is giving Google some kind of monopoly over online books.

Google went through a long lawsuit and then paid a settlement to receive those rights. Why is the OCA is complaining? Why don't they just pay the same license? Why don't they just set up their own online book system?

Pah. That would be too easy. Instead, they want to complain and drag back the one company who is trying to advance online works.

They should step up, not hold back.

3 comments:

Ian McKellar said...

I'm hoping that Google with books is a bit like Apple with digital music. A big player who can force the industry to start making deals, and then have the deals available to everyone within a few years. That's a lot of the value that big companies can bring.

Jeffrey McManus said...

They didn't "pay the settlement". They proposed a settlement. Nothing's been paid yet. (Except, presumably, the lawyers.)

You are making Google seem like the victim, but it's important to understand that Google was in the wrong here; this situation came about because they digitized and republished books without permission.

I definitely agree that it's fishy that all of the companies that are challenging the settlement just happen to be Google competitors. But that's what happens when you become the 800-lb gorilla; Google should have gotten accustomed to that long ago.

That said, it's interesting to me that the music industry can shake down college students and housewives to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars per illegally downloaded MP3, but as a book author who had his IP misappropriated, I'm apparently only entitled to $60 for each of my books.

bsmedberg said...

The important part about the settlement is that by the legal magic of class-action, the Author's Guild becomes the representative for any author who has not explicitly opted out of the settlement. The other players cannot license these works: the only way they could possibly compete is by also violating author's copyright, being sued by the Author's Guild, and settling through class action. There is no guarantee that other players would be allowed to settle, creating great legal risk for them and effectively creating a legal monopoly for Google books through a class-action lawsuit.

I applaud that Google wants to make books available, but using class action lawsuits to create a legal monopoly is fundamentally wrong and it's quite reasonable for other players (both commercial and non-commercial) to oppose it.