Google Books Search Settlement Rejected

I have been against the Google Books Settlement.

So I’m glad to see Judge Chin also rejected the Amended Settlement Agreement (ASA) citing several problems I had with it too.

First, let me thank my fellow published Copyright-holding writers:

Further, an extremely high number of class members — some 6800 — opted out.

I’d also like to call out writer Ursula K. Le Guin for raising the visibility of this issue and resigning from the Author’s Guild over it. That took both foresight and guts!

On the subject of Copyright and who owns books, these excerpts from the decision:

In contrast, here class members would be giving up certain property rights 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.


. . . the notion that a court-approved settlement agreement can release the copyright interests of individual rights owners who have not voluntarily consented to transfer is a troubling one.


A copyright owner’s right to exclude others from using his property is fundamental and beyond dispute.


Under the ASA, however, if copyright owners sit back and do nothing, they lose their rights.


. . . it is incongruous with the purpose of the copyright laws to place the onus on copyright owners to come forward to protect their rights when Google copied their works without first seeking their permission.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Really, the gall of Google is still astounding. It’s as if they went around to all the foreclosed homes, saw no one inside, broke in to squat and then declared ownership by virtue of theft! Except they also tried to do this with homes whose owners were still inside!

So, the court has found that, no, the court has no business dealing with changing Copyright. That’s up to Congress, as stated here:

The questions of who should be entrusted with guardianship over orphan books, under what terms, and with what safeguards are matters more appropriately decided by Congress than through an agreement among private, self-interested parties.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

And what that really means is, Google will rev up their lobbying efforts (as if they weren’t already at this in the months preceding the decision!). Our so-called “representatives” will roll over, just as they did with past Copyright extension Acts that helped get us into this mess. For the record, I am all for the public domain; I disagree with the current ludicrous Mickey Mouse-favoring length of Copyright.

And what the now-rejected Settlement would have created:

Yet, the ASA would grant Google the right to sell full access to copyrighted works that it otherwise would have no right to exploit. The ASA would grant Google control over the digital commercialization of millions of books, including orphan books and other unclaimed works. And it would do so even though Google engaged in wholesale, blatant copying, without first obtaining copyright permissions.

And as for those of us who wanted to punch the Author’s Guild in its collective face for daring to speak for “every” writer:

Likewise, the named plaintiffs have interests different from Rightsholders who do not come forward to register. The parties have little incentive to identify and locate the owners of unclaimed works, as fewer opt-outs will mean more unclaimed works for Google to exploit.

That’s just as Ursula K. Le Guin said: the Author’s Guild tried to sell out every writer.

There are those who saw this towards the end of the decision and have jumped on it:

In the end, I conclude that the ASA is not fair, adequate, and reasonable. As the United States and other objectors have noted, many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA were converted from an “opt-out” settlement to an “opt-in” settlement.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

No. “Opt-in” is not a solution at all. I haven’t even addressed Copyright holders whose works originated outside of the United States (that’s addressed in the decision itself but is not my personal interest).

“Opt-in” (jumped on by the Quislings of the Author’s Guild) and “narrowing” of the ASA (jumped on by print publishers) does not erase this damning and still insurmountable fat fact:

Google’s ability to deny competitors the ability to search orphan books would further entrench Google’s market power in the online search market.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

Again, Google’s gall comes into play — and possibly the rank stupidity and cupidity of the Author’s Guild as well — crafting the ASA so Google has all the cheese and the hell with everyone else in the present and anyone who might pop up in the future!

There will never, ever be a Settlement so long as Google has all the cheese. Not ever!

If Google really wants to Do No Evil and do what is in the greater — and greatest — good, let them read this and start making it a reality.

Until then, there will never be an Agreement.


Filed under eBooks: General, Google, Rights, Writers

7 responses to “Google Books Search Settlement Rejected

  1. The world needs more literate people, more than it needs middlemen with fatter wallets. Google took an initiative that any serious human being can and should admire. MNo one else was doing it, or ever going to do it. The “money” and “property” aspects are piddling matters in comparison.

  2. Only me, eh? The silent thunder of those who support your view is deafening.

    • mikecane

      You were trolling me on Twitter. You are ignorant of the issues and have chosen to remain that way to prop up your hollow, uniformed prejudices. Educate yourself or just Shut The Fuck Up.

  3. The legal cost of this ASA debacle: $45 million (and counting) incurred by the AAP and Authors Guild. Over 40% of the proposed settlement amount gone to leagal fees. Not counting interest. Did any of those $900/hr lawyers advise the AAP and Guild that no district judge in their right mind would countenance the wholsesale violation of Congressional copyright authority. Had Judge Chin ruled differently, I have no doubt this would have gone all the way to the Supreme Court as a separation of powers issue. As is so often the case, only the lawyers win. Thank you, Google.

  4. kitten

    I’m all for being able to read ebooks for free, but I don’t trust anyone with a monopoly. Current copyright laws suck…

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