Google's book grab
Time is running out for local and international authors -- including dead ones. September 4th marks the deadline for opting out or objecting to Google's Book Settlement -- a settlement that, if ratified, could effectively give the corporation the rights to every book ever published.
According to Pamela Samuelson: (my emphasis)
Local author Dr Lynley Hood has an excellent backgrounder on how this absurd situation has arisen. A couple of snippets;
But that’s not how Google sees it. ...
FAQs of special interest to New Zealand writers include the following:
9. I am not a United States citizen, or I live outside of the United States. Am I included in this Settlement?
Yes, most likely you are. If you are a citizen of another country or live in another country, you are likely to own a U.S. copyright interest if:
- Your Book was published in the United States;
- Your Book was not published in the United States, but your country has copyright relations with the United States because it is a member of the Berne Convention; or
- Your country had copyright relations with the United States at the time of the Book’s publication.
- You should assume that you own a U.S. copyright interest in your Book, unless you are certain that your Book was published in, and that you reside and are located in, one of the few countries that have not had or do not now have copyright relations with the United States.
According to the NZ Society of Authors, rightsholders have four options;
- Negotiate a separate deal with Google under its partner
program. For those that already have, the Partner Program agreement
will take precedence although it may or may not cover all the rights
that Google gets under the settlement agreement
- Opt out by formally notifying Google. The deadline for
opting out has been extended to 4 September 2009.
- Opt in. If you opt in and lodge a claim in respect of a
book prior to 5 January 2010, you will receive a share of the $45
million that Google has put aside to pay rightsholders (the exact
amount will depend on how many people claim but will be between US$60
and US$300). You will also receive 63% of any revenue received by
Google (e.g. from advertising around your book search result or if it
is made available on subscription to a library or other institution).
- Do nothing - in which case you will lose the right to sue Google in the US even if Google does digitize your book and publish excerpts and you will not receive any revenue for that use.
The point is that authors must make a decision, because doing nothing is also a decision!
Speaking personally, I reckon the whole electronic book market is too new to be signing away any rights. It's still uncharted territory; the first truly mass-market electronic book reader's barely 18-months old. That's why I opted out.
Full opt-out details are here and you can opt-out online here.