Laurel L. Russwurm's Free Culture Blog

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

Canadian Writers! Artists! Say “No” to GBS Settlement

with 3 comments

google logoIf anything you have written has been published, or will be published, it is important for you to act quickly.

Because the Google Book Search Settlement will apply to

all published material in large American libraries

Under the terms of this settlement ANYTHING that might be in a library could be scanned and digitized by Google for their own benefit.

I don’t hate Google. I love the Google search engine because it works so very well. In fact when using it to look for links on this subject it was very helpful, it even highlighted this lovely quote from the amazing Ursula LeGuin:

“You decided to deal with the devil, as it were, and have presented your arguments for doing so. I wish I could accept them. I can’t. There are principles involved, above all the whole concept of copyright; and these you have seen fit to abandon to a corporation, on their terms, without a struggle,” she wrote in her letter of resignation.”

Ursula K. LeGuin in the GUARDIAN article Writers’ groups lobby US Congress against Google books deal

But I don’t think that businesses have any business owning copyright — CREATORS are the only ones who ought to own copyright. The reason copyright is in the absurd place it is today is because for years the corporations who owned the distribution networks were able to used their absolute power to deny artists access to a mass audience unless the artists were willing to give up some or all of their copyright to the corporation. In law that’s called “duress”. But that was SOP. Only the select few artists who struck it big ever had a hope of regaining control because they shifted the balance of power.

There are all sorts of reasons why this Google Book Search Settlement should not go through… one being that the scope is just too large. The outcry from other American writers groups indicates clearly that The Authors Guild, Inc.does not speak for all American writers, yet they have brought their suit on behalf of all the writers in the world and are prepared to accept a settlement which is clearly not acceptable to their American brethren, let alone writers from the rest of the world.

It is ludicrous to think a single writers collective can possibly speak for all the writers AND artist AND songwriters of the world

In the first place copyright law is NOT universal. This is why countries like Germany, France and the UK have fought hard against the original Google Book Scan settlement– and in fact won their freedom from this settlement.

Writers from Australia, Canada and the USA will be losing their digital copyright to Google. But that will not be the end of it.

Other things besides books are published and housed in libraries. Magazines. Newspapers. Sheet Music. Lyrics. But as well as written material, there is also a great deal of art published and held in library collections. I haven’t heard anything about artist’s rights being looked out for.

How can this be?

So in this second attempt at reaching a Google Book Scan settlement the only countries who may end up stuck with this legal travesty are Australia, Canada and the USA. Apparently there has not been much of a to-do about this issue in Australia, which leads me to believe that Australian Writers and Artists are just as much in the dark about this as I was yesterday. So they have not been presented with this information and will lose their digital rights without even being aware it is happening.

They don’t have the right to give away our digital rights.

Copyright symbol with maple leafThe best case scenario is to stop this class action suit settlement because it will strip away the digital rights of creators. That’s what the Canadian Petition letter is aiming to do. Read it on Sarah Sheard’s blog: LETTER IN PROTEST OF THE GOOGLE BOOK SETTLEMENT <em>[editor's note: Sarah Sheard seems to have taken all the GBS material down, breaking all the links, so I'm just disabling them here.]

Better yet– sign the petition!

Sarah Sheard and David Bolt stress that This is not an opt-out petition

Although I’m an optimist by nature, life has taught me to expect the worst, so I as well as adding my signature to the letter I am also opting out, just in case.

Much more information about the legalities can be found on the American National Writers Union FAQ. I had technical difficulties with the National Writer’s Union sample letter (which would only open as “read only” in Open Office) so I retyped it into my blog post so you can easily cut and paste if from in the wind: Google Book Search OPT OUT letter: WRITERS. The National Writers Union is only one of many American writer’s groups are campaigning hard against this grossly unfair settlement deal in the United States.

There is a facebook group from which I learned that January 28th is just the opt-out deadline, but that there are additional hearings:

from the Facebook Group:
Canadian Writers Against Google Settlement says:

• Notice begins: Monday, December 14, 2009.
• Opt-out/objection/amicus deadline:
                Thursday, January 28, 2010 (45 days later).
• DOJ files its response: Thursday, February 4, 2010 (7 days later).
• Plaintiffs move for final approval:
                Thursday, February 11, 2010 (7 days later).
• Final fairness hearing: Thursday, February 18, 2010 (7 days later)

It would seem to me that if there are VAST amounts of opt-outs, the court may well decide to throw out this settlement as well.

More Coverage of this important story can be found at:
Authors lobby U.S. court to reject Google deal

Writers’ groups lobby US Congress against Google books deal

Canadian Authors Mount Anti-Google Campaign

Quill & Quire: U.S. writers’ groups team up to protest Google settlement

Writers Ask Congressional Authors: Do You Know What Google and the Authors Guild Want to Do with Your Copyright?

Computer Weekly: US authors appeal to Congress over Google Books deal

New York Times: Writers Groups Oppose Google Settlement

Los Angeles Times: Journalist, freelance and sci-fi authors groups take aim at Google book settlement

[To make up for the broken links, here’s a Bonus Link: Google, Publishers, Authors Defend Book Settlement (Update2) ]

And to restore substance, I’ve found the petition:

LETTER IN PROTEST OF THE GOOGLE BOOK SETTLEMENT
The following Canadian authors and copyright holders wish to protest the Google Book Settlement. Even in its revised form, it is an assault on international copyright law and has distorted class action law for the benefit of a predatory corporation.

New Zealand, Ireland, South Africa and India – all countries with English-language presses similar to Canada’s — have been exempted from the settlement because they protested vigorously against it.. We wish to protest just as loudly. The Governments of France and Germany protested that illegal digitization of books amounted to theft of a cultural heritage. We agree, and believe that Canada’s heritage of Cultural nationalism should be applied to the Google settlement. All of continental Europe is now exempt, and so should Canada be.

We believe that Canadian Copyrights should be subject to Canadian courts, as well as to the Berne Convention. We believe that Canadians should not lose control over their works because they fail to sign up in a registry in another country; and, further, that the opt-out (rather than the time-honoured opt-in) clause serves to co-opt many copyright holders who do not have the the time or inclination to study this complicated settlement. Also, the deadline for opting out insults common sense and benefits only Google.

The director of the US Copyright Office has said “no factors have been demonstrated that would justify creating a system akin to a compulsory license for Google – and only Google – to digitize books for an indefinite period of time.” She has called it “an end-run around copyright law”. We agree.

The US Department of Justice sees no reason why Google should not negotiate with authors and publishers individually, just like anyone else who wants to purchase copyright licences. We agree.

The Google Settlement was negotiated by the Authors Guild of the U.S. But other U.S. groups — the National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers — are all unequivocally opposed to it. We do not accept that the Authors Guild speaks for us and join the above organizations in demanding that the settlement be rejected.

If the settlement is not rejected, we see no reason to trust in the future. The Google Corporation has behaved in an illegal and predatory fashion in the past and will likely go on behaving in this way.

We join with the writers’ and publishers’ groups, as well as with the foreign law courts and governments, who reject the settlement in its entirety.

Vancouver Observer: Canadian Authors Mount Anti-Google Campaign

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3 Responses

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  1. Lobbyists can only slow this process down. The end results are inevitable.

    BCM

    January 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    • No they’re not. If it was inevitable, New Zealand would still be on the list.

      Rather than inevitable the idea that any group can negotiate rights for another group without permission is absurd.

      Laurel L. Russwurm

      January 7, 2010 at 3:03 pm


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