Friday, 17 April 2009

Going Google

The Bookseller's managing editor Philip Jones writes in his blog that the UK Publishers Association held seminars this week to explain to members why the Google Settlement matters to them:
As is becoming increasingly clear there is no easy option available to non-US publishers. (I'm not sure there is an easy route for US publishers either, but at least they got to have a say in the drawing up of the Settlement.)

Perhaps most bizarre is that all publishers must actively opt out, otherwise they will find themselves bound by the agreement. As publishers are finding out, there is almost no good reason to opt out, since Google could then carry on its digitisation process, and opting out would put the onus back on the individual publisher to pursue its own legal challenge—hardly advisable. Even objecting to the settlement at the Fairness Hearing, set for New York on 11th June, means you are bound by the agreement.
Those publishers who do decide to opt out will have to do so by May 5. At the seminars it was announced that Google could start advertising a digitized book offer consumer service in the United States via the Google search engine as early as July.

See also: The Digibooks Row


Eric Dickens said...

What is the exact definition of an "orphan title"? I get the general drift, but can't work out the specifics.

I can see that Google appears to be trying to take over basically every unclaimed title and every out-of-copyright one too. But this seems quite a complex issue. Do you know where else this discussion is being held?

David McDuff said...

"Orphan titles" or "orphan books" are works that are still under copyright, but for which the copyright holder can't be found.

I don't know offhand of any online discussions of the issue, but there are bound to be some somewhere, I guess...

Eric Dickens said...

Thanks for the definition. I had thought that they might be books that have never been in copyright.

It is certainly an interesting issue, and will no doubt be discussed widely. I remember now that Google Earth, whose British communications chief is former Newsnight editor Peter Barron, has caused controversy in one British village as the people living there feel that making online photos of their houses could make them more prone to burglary.

I'm very happy with Google Earth satellite pictures and their search engine, but as we live in a global world, where not everyone is nice, democratic and honest, such hugely powerful organisations do have to be policed to avoid them eroding our privacy.

David McDuff said...

Hi Eric,

Yes, Google is big and getting bigger each year. It does need to be monitored. One moderating factor may be that Google's conflict with Microsoft will something of a brake on its over-rapid development.

But I think the digitizing of out-of-print books can only be a good thing for authors and readers alike, and I don't see a danger to privacy in that aspect of Google's operations.