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Authors Guild v. Google (kinda dry for Friday, but possibly worth looking into)

Somewhat in keeping with Colleen's post about intellectual property theft yesterday, I thought I'd pass along this notice from the Authors Guild regarding the $125 million settlement with Google:
"The settlement strengthens authors' rights and will, if approved by the court, result in millions of dollars of payments to authors. At least $45 million will be paid to authors and publishers to release claims for books that are scanned by Google by May 5th of this year. But that's not the most significant part of the settlement, in our view. We expect the licensing that this settlement would enable, particularly of out-of-print books, will result in far more revenues for authors over the coming years.

The settlement covers essentially all in-copyright books that were published by January 5, 2009. (Some authors have told us that they think of the settlement as covering only books for adults or nonfiction books. This is incorrect. Books of all types are covered by the settlement.)

We think it's in the strong interest of authors of all books, whether in print or out of print, to go to and claim their books. Here are some of the benefits of doing so:

1. If you file your claim by January 5, 2010, and a book in which you have a copyright interest is scanned by Google before May 5, 2009, you will be entitled to a small share (at least $60 per book, but up to $300, depending on the number of claims) in a pool of at least $45 million that Google is paying to release claims for works that were scanned without rightsholder permission.

2. By registering, you'll be able to share in potential revenues for uses of your works under several new licensing programs that the settlement enables. Here are examples of licensing revenues you may be entitled to share in:

A. Revenues from printing out pages from your works at terminals in public libraries.

B. Revenues from ads that may appear near "previews" of your works at

C. Revenues from sales of special online editions of your works.

D. Revenues from institutional subscriptions that may include your works.

Important note: Only out-of-print books will be included in these programs by default. In-print books will be included only where rightsholders affirmatively elect to do so.

3. By registering, you'll automatically enroll in the new Book Rights Registry, which will give you a considerable amount of control over the rights to your works, including your right to withdraw your work from the licensing programs described above.

The important thing is to assert your rights. It's easiest to do so by setting up an account at, the official settlement website. Once you're logged in, it's generally most efficient to claim your works by searching the database of titles by your name.

There are many more details, which the attached document spells out. For those who would like more information, we'll soon be announcing a new series of phone-in seminars. You will receive that e-mail later this week.

Please feel free to forward and post this message: non-Guild members are entitled to the same advantages of the settlement as Guild members."


This is timely. I just registered yesterday!

I encourage all authors to do so, and to update their claims should they receive any reversions of rights.
Jo Anne said…
A small step in setting limits and legal precedent for the issue you addressed just yesterday, Colleen. More and more folks want something for nothing - hence, the recession... :-)
TJ Bennett said…
This is a great service you've done by posting it. I'm going to spread the word. I just registered my claim today.


FrancesGrimble said…
The Author's Guild sued Google because Google scanned copyrighted works, which Google initially said was for the purpose of displaying "snippets" in their search engine. The Author's Guild could have lost that suit, and they could have won it. If they had run out of money to pay their lawyers (although apparently they did not) they could have merely withdrawn the suit.

What the Author's Guild did instead, is to negotiate a much, much larger publishing contract; which if approved by the courts, would enable Google to sell entire books as e-books, as print-on-demand books, and as parts of bulk package deals to libraries. This contract extends for the entire remaining copyright term of millions of works. The Author's Guild is trying to rope in millions of copyright holders by demanding an "opt out or you're automatically in" arrangement.

Google made no attempt to either check Copyright Office records or locate copyright holders. Millions of books were scanned that are not only copyrighted but in print. The much-ballyhooed issue of “making rare works available” is a red herring—letters submitted to the court show that bestsellers such as The Da Vinci Code are listed as out of print in Google’s database of scanned books (which is not the same as the publicly available Google Book Search). The PR about the “Universal Library” is misleading—Google’s plan is really a bookstore, they’re not giving this material away.

Many authors whose rights for out-of-print books have reverted to them, are making their books available via e-book and print-on-demand technology, and listing them on venues such as Amazon: Such methods are cheap, easy, and readily accessible. Publishers are likewise keeping their backlists alive with e-books and print-on-demand. Neither publishers nor authors need Google to interpose itself as a middleman taking a cut of the revenues, without having done any of the work to create the book.

The proposed Settlement does not give authors "control" over their works. (And Google _is_ still scanning books—the Author’s Guild has not asked the court to issue an injunction to halt scanning.) No one has determined what Google will do with all the works they have scanned that were published after the Settlement cut-off publication date of January 5, 2009, or the works of copyright holders who individually opted out of the Settlement, or the works of copyright holders who are citizens of foreign countries that were opted out of the Settlement. Or even the illustrations in most of the books opted in, where the illustrations have a different copyright holder than the text. The Author's Guild did not get a clause inserted in the Settlement saying that neither Google nor the fully participating libraries (who received free scans of the books in other participating libraries as part payment for lending the books to Google), will not go right ahead and sell the works of copyright holders who opted out of the Settlement.

If the Settlement were approved, this would set a precedent for every other entity who wanted to scan and sell copyrighted books, to first do so, and then try to get copyright holders automatically signed up with a similar class action suit and opt-out requirement.

Meanwhile, since the "snippets" issue was dropped, the Author's Guild has set no legal precedent regarding "snippets." Any other search engine company could still scan copyrighted works, display "snippets," and wait for a class action suit.

I would hardly call the Author's Guild's actions either protecting copyright, or preventing infringement from "moving elsewhere."
Frances Grimble said…
The Google Settlement is almost certain to be rejected by the court (since the Justice Department is still heavily criticizing it), or at least another version (or several) will be produced. The classes in the class action suit may be changed.

I urge authors not to opt into the Settlement until they have more information--and there will likely be more opt-in and opt-out alternatives in the future. See
Thanks so much, Frances, for providing this additional information.

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