If the Corporate Copyright Lobby has their way nothing from Mickey Mouse onward will ever enter the public domain. So the thought of slapping copyright on material that is already in the public domain is repugnant to me. I
knew Google was scanning public domain books and making the resulting digitized version available under Google copyright. I thought that was bad, but at the same time it is better than having books lost forever.
Myself I much prefer the wonderful Project Gutenberg, which scans books and makes them available to everyone everywhere absolutely free online without copyright.
But that is not all Google is doing:
1. What is the Google Book Search (GBS) lawsuit about?
Since 2004, Google has been scanning the entire collections of several major libraries, without asking for or obtaining permission from the authors or other copyright owners.
Google scans entire books and other works, converts the scans from images to text, indexes them, and republishes them for profit by including “snippets” from scanned books in results of Google searches and selling ads on these search result pages. None of the money from these ads goes to the author or copyright holder, even if someone searches for a quotation from your book, poem, etc., or all the search results on the page with the ads come from your book.
The Authors Guild (without consulting or involving the NWU or any other writers’ organization) and the Association of American Publishers (which represents major New York commercial publishers) sued Google in federal court in New York for copyright infringement. Their lawsuit was provisionally certified as a class action on behalf of all authors and publishers anywhere in the world whose works were scanned by Google.
The original settlement got so much flack from so many countries that this new settlement has been scaled back so that the only countries it will be inflicted on are Australia, Canada, and the USA. Perhaps if we make enough of a fuss this settlement will also be quashed.
Sarah Sheard has mounted a Canadian Writers’ Petition in an effort to attempt to stop the settlement, particularly for Canadians.
Every Canadian writer should sign, published or not.
This petition can help achieve the best possible outcome: for the settlement to be denied. (There are many American writers organizations vigorously fighting against this settlement as well.) Should the court approve this settlement it will be binding on American, Australian and Canadian writers. The time frame to do anything is ridiculously short, as the decision will be made after submissions stop being accepted on January 28th, 2010.
The American National Writers Union provides a list of options, including my favorite, which is to opt out of the settlement. By opting out you deny Google the opportunity to take control of your work; you retain your rights. Even though I have not yet finished my novel, I will, because I plan to self publish it and many more.
The NWU provides a sample letter for writers to use. Even though it was not a PDF it was read-only for my computer, so I’ve taken the liberty of re-typing it here to make it easy for writers to use with simple cut and pasting.
NWU GBS OPT OUT SAMPLE LETTER
Office of the Clerk of the Court
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of N.Y.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse
500 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10007-1312
Re: The Authors Guild, Inc., et al. v. Google Inc., No. 05CV 8136
By this letter, I opt out of the proposed settlement in this case. I am opting out of both the “Author Sub-Class” and the “Publisher Sub-Class,” and out of the settlement in its entirety.
I have written and/or published works under names including, but not limited to, the following variant spellings, forms, pen names and pseudonyms:
My works include, but are not limited to the following:
I am opting out because
cc: Google Book Search Settlement Administrator
c/o Rust Consulting
P.O. Box 9364
[Optional copies for Google, print publishers, and the Authors Guild:]
Michael J. Boni, Esq.
Joanne Zack, Esq.
Joshua Snyder, Esq.
Boni & Zack LLC
15 St. Asaphs Rd.
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004 email@example.com
Jeffrey P. Cunard, Esq.
Bruce P. Keller, Esq.
Debevoise & Plimpton LLP
919 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022 firstname.lastname@example.org
Daralyn J. Durie, Esq.
Joseph C. Gratz, Esq.
Durie Tangri Lemley Roberts & Kent LLP
32 Pine Street, Ste. 200
San Francisco, CA 94104 email@example.com