This is very good news for authors.
Do you remember the big uprising in 2008 about Google scanning books and uploading them for all to read -for free? This travesty was remedied today in a US District Court in New York today as Judge Chin just rejected Google’s book settlement with publishers.
In a court document, Judge Denny Chin wrote that the settlement “would permit this class action…to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners.” Chin went on to claim that the agreement “would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.
Theft: Plain and simple.
Imagine publishing an article or book and then someone stealing it, claiming it as their own. Ignoring the law of copyright, as Google has, would have usurped all of the legal steps you took to protect your work. If this amendment had passed, it would have reversed the very foundation of copyright protection. To grant Google the permission to monopolize and score “significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners” would be devastating to the working author. Millions of the books that were scanned by Google were still under copyright, and Google did not obtain copyright permission to scan the books.
“Google and the plaintiff publishers secretly negotiated for 29 months to produce a horizontal price fixing combination, effected and reinforced by a digital book distribution monopoly,” a lawyer for the Open Book Alliance said at the time.
This expands well beyond just the United States -many authors of other countries have sought protection under the US Copyright law. The Berne Convention (effective in 1989) guarantees same rights and privileges for their works as domestic authors. Even though Google asserts that their concern is only within the United States, the impact the ASA would have foreign rights holders would be catastrophic.
Many loopholes were found in Google’s piracy proposal. The monopoly would be far-reaching and detrimental to authors.
“It is instead a complex and large-scale commercial enterprise in which Google — and Google alone — will obtain a license to sell millions of books for decades to come.” states Pamela Samuelson.
And without compensation to authors.
“In contrast, here class members would be giving up certain propertyrights in their creative works, and they would be deemed — by their silence — to have granted to Google a license to future use of their copyrighted works.” adds Chin.
Further, any ideals that Google had would
“Put the United States in violation of international intellectual property law and specifically inviolation of trade agreements among Canada, the United States,and other parties as those agreements relate to copyright” asserts a Canadian Association of Teachers.
I find it interesting that neither party is happy with the settlement -specially The Author’s Guild. One would think the Author’s Guild would continue their advocacy on behalf of authors little more than they did with this amendment. Their history mission statement maintains, “the nation’s leading advocate for writers’ interests in effective copyright protection,” seemed to depreciate as foreign authors and academic authors among others contended that their interests are at odds with the interests of the representative plaintiffs and could be seen as potentially antagonistic.
This ruling should send a clear message to other large corporations who want to violate and trample on those of us who don’t make a killing on publishing. And to allow authors to decide when and if we want to license or voluntarily transfer the work.
Here’s to Cultivating Your Creative Independence