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Amended Google Books Settlement: analysis & reactions

Yesterday, Brad Stone and Miguel Heft reported at the New York Times that the terms of the digital book deal with Google had been revised.

Danny Sullivan has written an excellent post on the amended Google Books settlement, where he liveblogged the press call and links to many other excellent resources, including the discussion on TechMeme.

The Amended Settlement Agreement (11/13/2009) is embedded below.

Google’s official response contained a link to a summary of the changes made here and includes a FAQ. More information is also available at th Google Books settlement page.

The Open Book Alliance has posted its own response to the Google Book Settlement.

Echoing the dismissal of the amendments by the Open Book Alliance, which called it “sleight of hand, Peter Brantley,  (as quoted in the Financial Times) said that “None of the proposed changes appear to address the fundamental flaws illuminated by the Department of Justice and other critics that impact public interest.” Brantley is director of the Internet Archive, which has been archiving digital content for years and has proposed an alternate vision for e-books, OpenLibrary.org.

I’m still reading through the settlement. The amendments would create a trustee for each one of the so-called “orphan works.” As Stone and Helft reported at the Times, “that trustee, with Congressional approval, can grant licenses to other companies who also want to sell these books, and will oversee the pool of unclaimed funds that they generate. If the money goes unclaimed for 10 years, according to the revised settlement, it will go to philanthropy and to an effort to locate rights holders. In the original settlement, unclaimed funds reverted to known rights holders after five years.”

The settlement also reduces the number of books that Google may proceed to digitize into its catalog at Google Books to books published in the United States, Britain, Australia or Canada.

“The changes will mean that 95 per cent of all foreign works will no longer be included in Google’s digital book archive,” said Richard Sarnoff, chairman of the Association of American Publishers, as quoted by Richard Waters in the Financial Times.

As Waters also pointed out, the settlement “also means that ,illions of out-of-print works that could previously only be found in a handful of university research libraries.” For researchers like Alexis Madrigal of Wired Magazine, who wished earlier for the parties involved to find a way to preserve Google Books, this settlement is one step closer to a successful resolution.

For authors or their trustees, it’s more complex. Whether amendments go far enough in providing other Internet companies with the means to successfully compete in providing an index of digitized books is not immediately clear. There’s going to be scrutiny of the settlement from the Department of Justice over the coming weeks, not to mention Congress. If Google remains as only company able to offer a comprehensive archive of all digital books to online readers, antitrust concerns may force further adjustments by the search giant.

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