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>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>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.

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