No matter the outcome, there are those who will be unhappy with Google’s plans to digitize the universe of books and make them available online. Google, which is being sued over the venture, filed a revised agreement with the Federal Court in New York hearing the case. The revision contains what John Timmer of Ars Technica calls “significant concessions,” including limiting the scope of the project.
But the Open Book Alliance (OBA), isn’t buying into it. OBA co-chair Peter Brantley, in a statement, said “By performing surgical nip and tuck, Google, the AAP, and the AG are attempting to distract people from their continued efforts to establish a monopoly over digital content access and distribution; usurp Congress's role in setting copyright policy; lock writers into their unsought registry, stripping them of their individual contract rights; put library budgets and patron privacy at risk; and establish a dangerous precedent by abusing the class action process.”
Brantley calls the revised agreement “a sleight of hand.” It “remains a set-piece designed to serve the private commercial interests of Google and its partners.” Further, Brantley maintains it does nothing to “address the fundamental flaws illuminated by the Department of Justice and other critics that impact public interest.”
Google is the company that is world famous for its motto “Do No Evil”, but in the world of online book scanning, the Open Book Alliance isn’t ready to take them at their word. The OBA, founded by the Internet Archive, has become a united voice for those who feel Google was handed a monopoly with its $125 million settlement with publishers. The primary argument is that competitors such as the Internet Archive, are forced to negotiate individual contracts with rights holders, while Google can simply scan now, and pay later when the author makes a claim.
“If this deal goes ahead, they’re making a real shot at being the library, and the only library” claims Internet Archives founder Brewster Kahle. Until recently the Open Book Alliance has been lacking any real corporate muscle, but with the recent inclusion of Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon into the alliance, they definitely will be taken much more seriously. With the outcome of the Department of Justice investigation into the matter still pending, Google is quickly finding itself in a very public battle over digital book rights, and they seem to be making many more enemies than friends these days.
According the OBA, anti-trust and anti-competitive concerns are an important focus, but they also worry about Google’s commitment to privacy. The American Libraries Association claims “When it comes to privacy, the agreement is silent on the issue with regards to what Google intends to do with the data it collects”.
Will the addition of Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon into the alliance help ensure equality in the book scanning industry?
The French fervidly guard their culture against any possible cultural transgressions by the Anglo-Saxon juggernaut. Four year’s ago, the French resolved to prevent Google from assuming control of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), their national library. But they have finally ended their four-year resistance.
The U.S. Department of Justice officially confirmed on Thursday that it has launched a formal investigation into the settlement between Google Book Search and publishers over digital publishing rights. The primary focus of the case is antitrust concerns which allege that Google may have engaged in anticompetitive practices involving intellectual property rights and their distribution.
Google’s foray into the world of digital books has been a turbulent one, and though their troubles appeared to be coming to a close last November with a $125 million settlement, the DOJ appears to be less than satisfied. The concern is that following the settlement, Google was effectively given a monopoly over copyright on out of print works. Anyone outside of Google who wished to pursue publishing of these titles online would need to negotiate with the individual authors, many of whom are difficult, if not impossible to find.
Google’s counter argument has always been that the digital book market is still wide open. They claim that any potential competitor who wanted to enter the book scanning market could simply negotiate a deal with the Books Rights Registry. The Registry is a nonprofit organization that was established during the settlement to represent the interests of the authors. Critics argue that Google’s head start makes competing difficult, and many worry about having so much information in the hands of one company. Google continues to shrug off concerns, and likes to remind everyone that competition “is just a click away”.
Do you agree? Hit the jump to leave your thoughts, and to read the official letter from the DOJ.
Google's Book Search has been garnering a ton of attention lately, and not all of it positive. While the search giant attempts to go forward with its Book Search initiative that would give it exclusive access to digital editions of some out-of-print books, others, like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, doesn't think it's such a great idea.
"There are many forces of work looking at that and saying it doesn't seem right that you should do something, kind of get a prize for violating a large series of copyright," Bezos said.
Bezo isn't alone in criticizing Google's plans, and while the search company recently agreed to cut a $125 million check to settle its legal disputes with authors and publishers who opposed the Google Book Search service, the Justice Department has stepped in and is currently looking for any possible antitrust violations.
"We have strong opinions about that issue which I'm not going to share," Bezos said during an interview at the Wired Business Conferences. "But, clearly, that settlement in our opinion needs to be revisited and it is being revisited."
Google had to go down on its knees, reach out for its checkbook and write a $125 million check to settle its legal disputes with authors and publishers, who had been opposing its Google Book Search service. The settlement has yet to receive court approval and that will not happen until October 7, 2009 – the date for the final hearing. But Google can be rest assured that there is going to be no dearth of hurdles during the intervening period.
Harvard believes that the settlement will lend a commercial shade to the Google Book Search service and that “the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher-education community and by patrons of public libraries.” However, Google can blithely continue to scan Harvard’s out-of-copyright material.
Although the $25 million settlement is yet to be ratified by a judge, the Author’s Guild delightfully labeled it the "the biggest book deal in U.S. publishing history." The deal has opened the floodgates for millions of extra titles to be part of Google Book Search. Users will have the option of purchasing a book – the revenue will be split between Google, the publisher and the author – after previewing it; the service will allow them to preview 20 percent of the pages.
Google has been a major boon to researchers, with their efforts to scan and index just about everything, but they haven’t exactly endeared themselves to copyright holders, a state of affairs which had cumulated in a lawsuit against the search giant by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. Today, Google announced that they’ve reached an agreement that will allow them to continue their book digitization project with the cooperation of the authors and publishers.
The agreement states that Google will pay a hefty $125 million, mostly to establish a Book Rights Registry. The registry will allow copyright holders to identify themselves and receive royalties.
Under the agreement, users of Google Book Search will be able to view up to 20% of any indexed book for free, a big increase from the “snippets” available before. Users can also view a book in its entirety by paying a fee, which goes to the copyright holder through the Book Rights Registry.
Also, local libraries will be able to offer free access to the entire texts of all of Google’s 7 million (and growing) scanned books.
Right now the settlement will only affect users in the U.S., though Google says they’re attempting to reach similar agreements abroad.
Do you use Google Book Search? How will these changes affect you? Let us know after the jump.