Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2011 Issue

Google Books Hearing Postponed

Googlebookslogo

No settlement.

A hearing on the Google Books settlement has been postponed to July with no indication that the parties have been able to overcome the thorny issue that led a judge to strike down the original settlement. At stake is potential online access to millions of books published after 1923 but no longer in print.

 

This case started out as a suit between Google and groups representing authors and publishers over books potentially still under copyright, but long out of print. Google began posting at least portions of such books online, but without permission from copyright holders.  It was not that Google sought to avoid the copyright holders' rights, or evade their responsibility to pay royalties. It was, rather, a case of it being virtually impossible to locate copyright holders of long out of print books, many of whom are long dead, and the inheritors of these rights unknown and even harder to find. Many, undoubtedly, have no idea they inherited the copyright to an obscure book few purchased when it was new, and maybe no one has purchased in over half a century.

 

When Google began posting this material, groups representing authors and publishers sued. This suit led to a settlement between the parties. Google would be permitted to continue scanning and making these books available online for a fee, but 63% of the income obtained from these sales would be set aside for the copyright holders. However, the copyright holders would first have to notify Google of their rights to collect since Google had no practical means of finding them.

 

This agreement satisfied Google and the author and publisher groups, but others, including the U.S. government and different authors and publishers (as well as Google competitors) objected. They said that regardless of what the parties to the settlement thought was fair, allowing anyone to publish copyrighted material without first getting permission violates copyright law and therefore must be struck down. Essentially, the Judge agreed and struck down the settlement.

 

So, it was back to the drawing board for the parties to the original lawsuit, to find a settlement that not only satisfied themselves, but also the Judge and others who objected. Originally, they were to meet with the Judge on April 25, then June 1, and now July 19. The delays are not surprising. This is a seemingly intractable problem. It's not surprising that the parties are having difficulties. The authors and publishers want a fair share, and 63% evidently sounds fair to them. On the other hand, Google needs to be able to scan these books without the headache and cost of trying to track down all of these hard-to-find copyright holders. It's hard to see how they can absorb the cost of trying to locate millions of lost copyright holders for books that will have limited sales for 37% of the revenue, or even 100% for that matter.

 

Unfortunately, this is not an issue Google and the author and publisher groups can readily resolve among themselves now that the Judge has said no to their settlement. Exactly what these parties can do now to keep each other happy, let alone keep those who objected to the original settlement and the Judge satisfied too, is hard to fathom. Someone is going to have to come up with a creative solution or else access to millions of out-of-print, virtually forgotten books will once again be lost. The parties to both the settlement and the later suit will all survive if no settlement is reached. The authors and publishers weren't making any money off of these old books anyway, the objectors for the most part are happy to kill any deal, and this is hardly the biggest kettle of fish on Google's table. The only real losers will be the public. Sorry, loser.


Editor's Note:  For a different perspective and experience from an author see the letter dated in July 1, 2011, in the Letters to the Editor. Click here to view.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>Aurora Australis.</i> Printed at the sign of 'The Penguins'; East Antarctica, 1908. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Shackleton, Ernest. <i>South Polar Times.</i> 1st edition, limited issue. from the library of Michael Barne. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> General Washington's <i>Proceedings of a General Court Martial... of Major General Lee.</i> Philiadelphia, 1778. 100 copies printed for Congress. BOUND WITH: ...Court Martial... of St Clair and ...Schuyler. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>The Voice of the People.</i> Boston, 1754. Rare pamphlet on the Excise Tax. Nathaniel Sparhawk's copy. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Autograph Letter Signed ("S.L. Clemens"), offering extensive hard-earned advice on writing, 5 pp, 1881. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> After Fra Egnazio Danti. <i>L'Ultime Parti not:e nel Indie Occid:ntli" [The last known parts of the Western Indies].</i> Painted Map of California, Western Mexico, and Japan. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Ptolemaeus, Claudius. <i>Geographie opus nouissima...</i> 1513. The most important edition of Ptolemy, containing the Admiral's Map. $250,000 to $350,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> De Arellano, Don Alonso. Manuscript, his <i>"Relación mui singular y circunstanciada... Capitán del Patax San Lucas,"</i> manuscript copy from the Sir Thomas Phillips collection. $50,000 to $80,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Purchas, Samuel. <i>Purchas his Pilgrimes.</i> First edition. With John Simth's engraved map of Virginia. $70,000 to $100,000
    <b>Bonhams: Exploration and Travel, Featuring Americana, Part I. September 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> Lewis, Meriwether. Contemporary manuscript true copy of his final power of attorney, 1809. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practiced at Boston in North America.</i> Mezzotint. London, 1774. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 25:</b> <i>Scientific Base Ball Pitching: A Treatise on the Pitcher, Pitching, Origin and Philosophy of the Curve.</i> Chicago, 1897. $2,000 to $3,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Franklin H. Brown, <i>State Sovereignty, National Union,</i> Chicago, 1860. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Thomas Paine, <i>The American Crisis,</i> Fishkill, NY, December 1776. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b><br>The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francisco Loubayssin de Lamarca, probable first edition of the first novel set in the Spanish New World, Paris, 1617. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Juan de la Anunciación, <i>Sermonario en lengua mexicana,</i> first edition, first book of sermons in Nahuatl, Mexico, 1577. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Maturino Gilberti, <i>Thesoro spiritual en lengua de Mechuacá,</i> first edition, Mexico, 1558. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Commission of William O. Stoddard as secretary to the president, signed by Lincoln, Washington, 1861. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> <i>Clay and Frelinghuysen,</i> flag banner, circa 1844. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Daguerreotype of a man believed to be Frederick Granger Williams Smith, son of Joseph Smith, circa late 1850s. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> John C. Wolfe, <i>Portrait of Abraham Lincoln,</i> oil on board in period wooden frame, circa 1860s. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Francis W. Winton, manuscript on pow-wows with indigenous Canadians, 1881. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 27:</b> Family letters from two young daguerreotype artists, 1826-79. $10,000 to $15,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions