Reaction to Google Book Search Settlement

Updated 10/30, 7:53 AM — Publishing experts, bloggers and interested parties are weighing in on the Google Book Search settlement. I’ll be updating this post as new material comes in. If you see something that deserves notice please post a comment:

Posts Added October 30

On the Google Book Search agreement
(Larry Lessig, Lessig Blog)

The hard question for the registry is how far they will go to support the range of business models that authors and publishers might have. E.g., Yale Press “Books Unbound” and Bloomsbury Academic both have Creative Commons licensed authors. Will the registry enable that fact to be recognized? Indeed, though the comment was made by someone from the plaintiffs’ side that it would be “perverse” for authors to choose free licensing, it is perfectly plausible that an author would choose to make his or her work available freely electronically, but contract with one commercial publisher to deal with selling the physical book, or licensing rights commercially. That, again, is the Bloomsbury Academic business model. Ideally, this non-profit should encourage the widest range of rights-respecting business models. One clear signal about what kind of organization this is will come from this.

Posts Added October 29

My initial take on the Google-publishers settlement
(Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything)

From the beginning, this has seemed to be a major example of corporate welfare. Libraries at public universities all over this country (including the one that employs me) have spent many billions of dollars collecting these books. Now they are just giving away access to one company that is cornering the market on on-line access. They did this without concern for user confidentiality, preservation, image quality, search prowess, metadata standards, or long-term sustainability. They chose the expedient way rather than the best way to build and extend their collections.

Short Term Profits Over Long Term Principles; Google’s Caving On Book Scanning Is Bad News (Mike Masnick, Techdirt)

… it’s quite upsetting to see Google cave on this. The settlement does not establish any sort of precedent on the legality of creating such an index of books, and, if anything pushes things in the other direction, saying that authors and publishers now have the right to determine what innovations there can be when it comes to archiving and indexing works of content. Unfortunately, this was really inevitable. As was the case with Google caving on YouTube and the Associated Press, it becomes a situation where Google realizes it can throw a little cash at the problem to make it go away — while also creating a large barrier to entry for any more innovative startup. From a short-term business perspective this might make sense, but from a long-term business perspective (and wider cultural perspective) it’s terrible.

Google Book Search Lawsuit Settled, Fair Use Questions Remain … (Sherwan Siy, Public Knowledge)

But while the legal landscape isn’t altered too much by the settlement, the practical landscape could be. Rightsholders and other potential plaintiffs might view this settlement as the model for all future relationships with digitization efforts–if Google pays for digitizing, why shouldn’t everyone else? Such a landscape might make a plaintiff more likely to sue, although the results in court, ideally, shouldn’t differ, with or without this settlement in place.

Boondoggle in Google Rights Win? (Warning, Rant) (Erik Sherman, Erik Sherman’s WriterBiz)

Going forward, people will buy books they want online and libraries will pay for access. Who gets 37 percent of the revenue? Google. Plus, there’s advertising revenue and Google gets the same percentage of that. So for $125 million, it’s probably nailed down many, many times more future revenue. This will turn out to be a pretty cheap business acquisition for them.

Author’s Guild Settlement Insta-Blogging (James Grimmelmann, The Laboratorium)

The issue is that this is a class-action settlement requiring judicial approval to bind all authors. It’s practically impossible for anyone else to take advantage of Google’s terms without filing suit to obtain a similar class-binding order. Individual license negotiation — the route that Google considered and rejected when it started the project — is utterly infeasible. Since voluntary negotiation can’t produce the result one needs to do comprehensive indexing, there’s still no market for it, and this settlement therefore shouldn’t prejudice future fair use claims by search engines.

Posts Added October 28

Google, Publishers, Authors Guild Settle (Kassia Krozser, Booksquare)

It continues to baffle me that it took approximately three years of litigation to get this far. That’s three years of lost gains and potential lost revenues. Makes my head hurt to think that so much time was wasted. Recall, if you will, that during this dead period, Amazon was able to introduce the closed-system Kindle, creating another kind of pressure on publishers to fall in line with an Internet giant.

The Google Settlement – From the Universal Library to the Universal Bookstore
(Paul Courant, Au Courant)

As the product develops, academic libraries will be able to license not only their own digitized works but everyone else’s. Michigan’s faculty and students will be able to read Stanford and California’s digitized books, as well as Michigan’s own. I never doubted that we were going to have to pay rightsholders in order to have reading access to digitized copies of works that are in-copyright. Under the settlement, academic libraries will pay, but will do so without having to bear large and repeated transaction costs. (Of course, saving on transaction costs won’t be of much value if the basic price is too high, but I expect that the prices will be reasonable, both because there is helpful language in the settlement and because of my reading of the relevant markets.)

Google Announces Settlement in AAP Lawsuit (Michael Cairns, PersonaNonData)

This agreement may make Google the eBook leader ahead of although we will not know this until the dust settles. That eventuality however, will be exactly what publishers will be looking for as they have become increasingly concerned about the position and power of the Amazon eBook (Kindle) offering.

First Impressions of the Google Books Settlement (Dan Cohen, Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog)

The agreement really focuses on in-copyright but out-of-print books. That is, books that can’t normally be copied but also can’t be purchased anywhere. Highlighting these books (which are numerous; most academic books, e.g., are out-of-print and have virtually no market) was smart for Google since it seems to provide value without stepping on publishers’ toes.

Google Book Search reaches an agreement … (TechWag)

What does this mean? Not much right now other than a very long and protracted lawsuit is finally grinding to a close. While I have a very different idea on digital goods, free culture (thanks Lawrence Lessig) giving things away for free (Thanks Internet), this might just be the break that will help authors, publishers, and Google find that elusive middle ground.

(Some links via Jose Alonso Furtado’s Twitter stream, Peter Brantley’s Reading 2.0 list, and comment submissions. Thanks to all for the help!)

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