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Big book news from Google

Google has reached a settlement agreement in the lawsuit brought by publishers who were afraid that awareness of the existence of the publishers’ books might leak out onto the Internet. (Non-biased translation: Google has settled with the publishers suing over its books.google.com book search service.)

As far as I can tell from Google’s plain-English explanation (which, overall, is exceptionally clear), the default for out-of-print books that are still under copyright will be that they are available through Google Book Search. You’ll be able to not only see snippets (as now) but will be able to purchase them, with the money being distributed through a new, independent, book rights registry. In addition, libraries and universities will be able to purchase site licenses for all the books Google’s scanned.

For books currently in print and under copyright, it sounds like not much has changed. Google says publishers can “turn on” the purchase and preview options. Couldn’t they before?

Once this settlement is agreed on, we will have what sounds like a reasonable program for working within the bounds of copyright. Much will depend, of course, on what the pricing is.

Now we have to work on fixing copyright so that it serves its original purpose — providing an incentive sufficient to bring authors to write — rather than being used to create an artificial scarcity to serve the economic interests of an industry entrenched in a ditch carved into paper.

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Wendy Seltzer worries that Google will now become iTunes for books …

3 Responses to “Big book news from Google”

  1. And my non-biased translation of your words?

    Now we have to work on abolishing copyright so that it no longer serves its original purpose – enabling publishers monopoly control of their industry, in order to keep a tight rein on communication to the masses (in the coincident interests of the state).

    I think you’ll find that readers are quite able to provide authors with an incentive sufficient to persuade them to write.

    You don’t need to reclassify photocopiers as proscribed munitions. These don’t threaten authors. They threaten publishers and the state’s totalitarian inclinations.

    Nor do you need to forbid citizens from engaging in unauthorised dissemination of published works.

    Which obscure cult programmed you to believe that by suspending the public’s cultural liberty copyright would persuade authors to write?

    Copyright is a monopoly prized by mass producers and vendors of copies for its ability to maintain artificially high prices of copies.

    When everyone can produce their own copies at next to nothing, the monopoly becomes painfully anachronistic.

    However, not everyone can produce their own novels let alone such literary masterpieces as Lord of the Rings.

    Where there is an enthusiastic audience of readers there is a market. You don’t need to shackle your readers’ hands unless you intend selling them copies instead of novels.

    I’d sell your readers a novel. There’s a niche for that.

    The market for copies has ended.

  2. […] David Weinberger translates legal speak into a brief, easy to understand explanation. […]

  3. One good reform (it is all dreams anyhow) would be to establish a principle whereby allowing any published work to go out of print would constitute abandonment of any economic interest therein and would immediately transfer the work to the public domain.

    A frequent situation in specialty publishing nowadays is that this or that work is effectively out of print in that no supplier is prepared to deliver copies or to name a date on which copies could be delivered, but the work still shows up in all of the databases of “books in print”.

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