Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Books: the dark ages again, so Umberto was right?

Please grant me a moment to explain. Act I: Google makes secret agreements with libraries to scan all books, calls it “search”, is greeted as a savior. When the details come out and are quite dark, it is too late as people remember it as a good thing.

Act II: Google is sued (surprise!) and secretly negotiates for maximum rights with as small a number of lawyers as possible. Having it be a class action is the stroke of genius — the parties get to rewrite copyright law. Google+TradeLawyers make a backroom deal — Google would get to solely control the out-of-print book world (most of the books of the 20th century) and the lawyers from the Authors Guild and the AAP would share tens of millions of dollars. Seems like a tidy deal. But there are two troubles — copyright and anti-trust. They need an act of Congress or the Justice Department to bless their cabal.

So where are we? They drafted a settlement that is completely self-serving, while short-changing authors, publishers, libraries, other countries, and Internet companies (if you don’t believe me, please read the words of hundreds of well-reasoned objections to the suit). The Justice Department did the right thing to cry anti-trust foul about the *two* monopolies that are proposed: Google and the Books Rights Registry. But interestingly, Google could only make a settlement where they were the only beneficiary because this was done as a class-action suit.

Full piece here at the Open Content Alliance

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