Rare Book Monthly

Articles - November - 2009 Issue

The Google Settlement: Where It Stands, and Our Opinion on the Appropriate Resolution

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Google seeks to make


By Michael Stillman

The proposed settlement that would allow Google to offer digital copies of copyrighted books, and in particular so-called "orphan books," books that are out of print and their copyright holders hard to find, is moving ahead at a rapid pace, too rapid for some of the opponents. Google had reached a settlement with two groups representing authors and publishers, but the agreement also seeks to bind these missing copyright holders who have no say. A whole host of other parties has volunteered to speak on their behalf.

The settlement provides for an independent registry, funded by Google but managed by authors and publishers, to keep track of copyrighted books. Those available to Google would be sold with a 63%-37% split (copyright holder-Google) of revenues. Copyright holders may either put their names into the registry for their share of the royalties, or decline to participate, in which case Google will not sell access to their books. However, if neither claim nor refusal is filed (which will often be the case as many of these copyright holders could be authors dead for 60, 70, 80 years), Google will be able to sell access to the books without compensating the copyright holders.

Many parties have objected to this settlement, including competitors such as Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo, and the nonprofit Internet Archive. Various publishing, library, and author groups can be found on each side of the issue, while Amazon book reader competitor Sony has sided with Google. Most of the opponents have banded together in an organization known as the Open Book Alliance. These groups sued in court to stop the settlement.

The case appeared to be coming close to a court ruling when the U.S. Government joined the opposition. This appeared to be a major victory for the objectors, but the government's objections may be much narrower than those of the other opponents. The government appears to want the settlement to be approved, but only after certain changes are made to allow for greater competition. The government wants other potential vendors of "orphan books" to have access to the same deal as Google, along with a few other changes. Once the government filed its objection, the court immediately put its plans for an October 6 decision on hold, and encouraged the parties to come up with a revised settlement that would resolve the differences.

Now, Google and its settlement partners have succeeded in getting the court to set the next hearing for November 9, where they will offer their revised settlement. Their hope is for a final court ruling in December or January. The Open Book Alliance reacted bitterly, claiming that Google and its settlement partners are pushing through a revision that may satisfy the government objections, but not their own (and for some of them, their hope may simply be to kill the settlement, not revise it). The OBA issued a statement saying that any settlement must be fully reviewed by all of their parties, not just the government. They continued, "It's also clear that the settlement partners have zero interest in creating an open process that takes input from critical stakeholders. Instead, Google and its partners are serving their private business interests and ignoring the public interest. They came to the courtroom without a single concrete recommendation of how they would address any of the problems with the original settlement. Instead, they proposed more of the same - secret, backroom negotiations - rather than an open, transparent and collaborative process."

We asked Google's Megan Lamb for Google's position on access by competitors to the books listed in the Registry. She responded, "The settlement is non-exclusive. The registry can do deals with any other company, including Google competitors, and as the testimony [of Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond before the House Judiciary Committee on September 10] says, 'If a competitor offers the registry a better deal, the registry has every incentive to take it.'" In other words, any competitor would be free to deal with the authors and publishers' registry, just as Google has. As for "orphan books," those for whom permission to republish is neither received nor denied, Ms. Lamb stated, "We have supported orphan works legislation for many years and continue to do so." She referred us to Mr. Drummond's testimony for more details on Google's position.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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