Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2008 Issue

Major Settlement Reached on Google Book Copyright Suit

Authorsguild

The Authors Guild reached a groundbreaking settlement with Google.


By Michael Stillman

A groundbreaking settlement was announced October 28 concerning the unauthorized digitization and viewing of copyrighted books by search giant Google. It promises a level of access to the content of out-of-print (and some in-print) books virtually unfathomable just a few years ago. What it means for physical, tangible books remains to be seen. It's hard to even guess.

Four years ago, Google began its massive digitization program. Securing access to some of the greatest university and public libraries, it began scanning copies of millions of old books and making their content accessible online. Many, if not most, were long outside of copyright protection, which resulted in no controversy. However, Google did not stop there. While books published before 1923 are no longer protected by their copyrights, many of those published later are still under protection. Others are not. It depends on whether copyrights were renewed years ago. Rather than attempting the daunting task of determining which books were still protected and which not, and the even more daunting task of locating the authors, or heirs of long dead authors, to ask permission, Google simply scanned the books. It was left to the authors or their heirs to object.

Few authors objected, but the Authors Guild, on their behalf, did. So did five publisher members of the Association of American Publishers. They objected to Google's use of their works without permission or compensation, with the onus being placed on writers or their heirs to detect Google's online violation of their rights and then demand redress. Certainly, their objections were reasonable and fair. An author is entitled to be compensated for his work. However, were the writers to prevail, vast amounts of knowledge, much under copyright but of no financial benefit to the writers as it was long out of print, would effectively be lost. It was a real conundrum of competing worthwhile interests.

The settlement between Google and the Authors Guild and AAP resolves this vexing problem in a way suitable to all parties. However, the greatest winner here is the third party that was never a participant in this suit - the people. All of this information within these copyrighted but out of print books now becomes available to you and I and everyone else, and through the convenience of a Google search. This is a win-win-win proposition.

The settlement provides for Google to make an upfront payment of $125 million to the various parties. $45 million would be used to pay copyright holders for past use. That is estimated to come to around $60 per book, not a huge payment, but about $60 more than these copyright holders would likely have earned on these books without Google. Next, a Book Rights Registry would be formed. This would be similar to the organizations which monitor the use of recorded music to provide royalties to musicians. Google would sell access to its Book Search database to various institutions and private individuals. Copyrighted books would only be partially visible on Google, with full access gained only by payment. The copyright holders would receive royalties for each access. Charges would also be made for printing out copies of copyrighted books, again with royalty payments being made to the holders. A total of 63% of the payments from each use would go to the copyright holders, with Google receiving the remaining 37%. It is important to note that without Google, the copyright holders of out-of-print books have virtually no hope of ever earning any additional revenue. This is all plus business.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
    <b>TO AKABA! T.E. Lawrence and the Arab Revolt. Books, manuscripts and pictures. On exhibition 16 to 24th July at Maggs' new premises 48 Bedford Square.</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> <i>Keep Calm and Carry On</i>, designer unknown, 1939. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, <i>Le Journal / La Traite des Blanches</i>, 1899. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> <i>"Let Us Go Forward Together,"</i> designer unknown, 1940. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, <i>Babylone d'Allemagne</i>, 1894. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Frank Beatty, <i>Out of the Running</i>, 1929. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Wake Up America Day</i>, 1917. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> <i>Danté / Sim • Sala • Bim!</i>, designer unknown. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>[Zodiac]</i>, 1900. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Rick Griffin, <i>Jimi Hendrix Experience / John Mayall</i>, 1968. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Abram Games, <i>Join the ATS</i>, 1941. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Aldo Mazza, <i>Torino / Esposizione Internazionale</i>, 1911. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 2:</b> Robert Motherwell, <i>Julliard School / Dedication - Lincoln Center</i>, 1969. $3,000 to $4,000
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions