Stop the Insanity
All authors and publishers, both American and foreign, should recognize the insanity of the proposed Google book copyright settlement in which Google is trying to monopolize what should be the job of the US Copyright Office (on the account of the US copyright law’s all-encompassing claims of jurisdiction over almost any book of any national origin).
If Google proposes to take care of all patent registrations in the world and decide on how much each patent holder should be paid while taking nearly 40% cut on each instance of the patent use, every government and patent holder in the world would be up in arms denouncing the idea; but the proposed Google settlement intends to do exactly that, except that it deals with copyrighted books, instead of patents.
The settlement essentially kills any future prospect for developing open Internet electronic publication market in which authors, publishers, and distributors negotiate freely for the best deal that can be struck under the prevailing market condition guided by the invisible hand of the market force. Google book settlement, on the other hand, put all that under the huge visible hand of Google guiding the market development under the legally binding force sanctioned by the US government.
Just because Google went ahead and scanned over 7 millions books on its own initiative with its own money is irrelevant, and it does not give Google the exclusive right to negotiate with all the authors and publishers in the world and force them to accept a paltry, fixed sum of money in exchange for all sorts of complex, self-serving restrictions and obligations designed to further Google’s dominance in the online information distribution market in the future to come.
There is a better way to put orphan books back in circulation that would benefit the general public much more without the public being forced by the US government to put money into the coffers of a profit hungry company. After all, Google settlement does not compensate the authors of orphan books; so why should Google, and Google alone, be given the opportunity to profit from them?
Google’s concerns for orphan books and their mostly dead authors are heartwarming, but it does not require Google’s help to put them back in circulation. Instead, a universal online copyright registry hosted by the US Copyright Office can be established to identify orphan books. After they are identified as such and the US Congress passes the necessary legislation to strip the copyright protection for orphan books (only for online cost-free distribution), free eBook hubs like Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive can distribute the books. (For more information, see: http://asolutiontoorphanbooks.blogspot.com/ )
Once the orphan book issue is out of the way, the main attraction of the Google settlement to authors and publishers would be that Google would be the one-stop online clearing-house for the distribution of eBooks, as well as for the collection and disbursement of proceeds. Obviously many authors and publishers are willing to forsake potentially more lucrative deals that can be realized once online eBook distribution market develops more fully. But this is shortsighted and frankly stupid, indicative of the lack of visions and talent among the publishing industry executives in replicating on the Web the open, “invisible hand” market that already exists for printed books.
If the key players in publishing industry want to shape their own future, they must not allow outsider like Google to define their future. Hopefully, they will recognize that there are plenty of things that they can do online without the involvement of Google and walk away from the settlement with Google, which is nothing but an attempt by Google to highjack the future of publishing industry and remake it to suit Google’s own convenience and profit.