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Washington Office Updates Attendees on the Google Book Settlement

Delegates lined up to ask questons

Delegates lined up to ask questions about the settlement's impact on libraries

The man in the brown shirt at the speaker’s table is the Google guy.  His name is Dan Clancy, Engineering Director for Google Book Search, Google’s effort to digitize all the world’s books and make them publicly searchable and displayable, purportedly as a service to the public, but most observe Google also has commercial interests.

When the scanning began a few years ago–involving major academic library partners–Google claimed Fair Use.  But publishers and authors didn’t exactly see it that way.  The Assoociation of American Publishers and the Authors Guild sued for Copyright infringement.

Two years in the making, a settlement was announced last autumn, so the Fair Use argument will never be decided by the Courts.

Clancey told delegates attending the Washington Office policy update sessions, the upside of the case not going to court is, “If we had won the lawsuit, people would only be able to see (content) snippets. The settlement will actually open up the treasure trove of content.”

What he was referring to are provisions within the proposed settlement that permit Google, Google library partners, and other libraries to offer access to the entire corpus of scanned books, under royalty arrangements with publishers and authors, even for books that are out-of-print.

Similar to the ASCAP agency, which collects and pays royalties for recorded music, the settlement will establish a Books Rights Registry, which will collect and pay fees to copyright holders for the use of their works.

To assure equitable access to the digital book collection, the settlement provides for a Public Access Service, defined by one speaker as amounting to “one designated terminal for every 10,000 students” in her academic institution.  Subscriptions will also be available for institutions that want to provide expanded access.

Google’s official description of the deal is here.

Concerns expressed at the update session centered around transparency of the price- and policy-setting process.  One speaker observed that though publishers and authors are represented in the group that will make these decisions, libraries will not have a voice, except Google library partners who can, according to Clancy act as a “bargaining collective to arbitrate pricing.”

The proposed settlement is so complex that ALA, ARL and ACRL, have prepared two  backgrounders, dubbed “Guides for the Perplexed.”  For these and other background materials, visit the ARL site.

See also:  The Google Book Settlement Update we published earlier this month on our NewsBreaks service.  In that piece, ITI News Bureau Chief Paula Hane summarizes discussions at SLA last month and provides a number of additional useful links.

Dick Kaser, ITI,VP, Content

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