back to article Googlebooks re-deal won't let orphans go

Google and its fellow parties in the ongoing Google Book Search case have released a revised incarnation of their proposed settlement, as they attempt to win court approval of the controversial pact. The revised settlement includes several changes designed to appease regulators, public advocates, and Google competitors who've …


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  1. Arcadian

    Two well-meaning ladies

    "English-speaking countries: the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia ... 'countries with a common legal heritage and similar book industry practices'"

    Ah yes: not New Zealand, where the Society of Authors strongly opposed the settlement and lobbied the NZ government till it agreed to look into their concerns.

    And not India, where the legal system is also based on English common law, and which is said to be the third largest publisher of books in English in the world (after the US and the UK). India recently made diplomatic representations to the US government to the effect that the Google Book Settlement would encroach on the copyrights of Indian authors and publishers.

    And not, interestingly enough, Ireland: another common law jurisdiction.

    In the USA there has been, at least, a debate raging ever since the first version of the settlement was announced last year. Two US writers' organisations have come out against the settlement and joined the <a href="">Open Book Alliance</a> that has been formed to fight it.

    I have not seen any of this controversy properly reflected in the information about the Google Book Settlement that has been put out by the three main UK authors' organisations: the Society of Authors, the Writers Guild of Great Britain, and the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society.

    Nor has it been regularly covered by most of the UK news media. (The Register has been one of the few exceptions - along with the Financial Times.)

    Many, probably most UK authors are still largely in the dark about the scope and detail of the settlement.

    And now we see two prominent UK authors, Margaret Drabble and Maureen Duffy, join the tiny group of 'representative plaintiffs' in the Google Books class action case. Drabble is the Chairman of the UK Society of Authors. Duffy is the Honorary President of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society.

    Apart from the USA, the countries that are still in the GBS are those where the authors have not so far put up a strong resistance, and in particular those where the authors' organisations have gone along with the rosy view of the settlement that has been propagated by the US Authors Guild, one of its main instigators (along with the Association of American Publishers and, of course, Google Inc).

    If you are a UK author and you don't like the idea of these two well-meaning ladies, without so much as asking you, opting you in to a dubious and highly detrimental quasi-contract, and granting your publishers an interest in rights - digital rights, US rights - that you may never have licensed to them in your contract, it is time to spread the word around and start lobbying the government. Only the government can get us out of this.

  2. Gannon (J.) Dick

    Two Things

    First, every Science has it's orphans. It can take centuries to separate genius from eccentricity. Ten years ? A mere 3,652.5 news cycles is not enough.

    Second, here's an "orphan" for you Google: It takes the ISO 3166 Country Codes and uses a URL like scheme to develop jurisdictions with a global ID so they will never conflict. Kind of handy for IP poaching, No? It's under a CC0 license, so when your lawyers get sick of memorizing latitudes and longitudes to 8 decimal places, they can use that. What they can never say is that they invented it or claim you own it as an orphan. =P

  3. Hermes Conran


    "The Mountain View advertising giant has already scanned at least 10 million titles, many of which are still under copyright."

    This is really an astonishing act of copyright infringement that make the Pirate Bay look like a bunch of amateurs. At least normal pirates don't try to change the law to prevent anyone else doing it!

    This raises the scenario some time in the future of a Pirate Book Bay being sued by Google for doing exactly the same thing they did!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bill & Ben will agree Peters license terms?

    Only the owner of the copyright can agree the price. And if they deliberately wanted that work to go out of print (perhaps they did another book for another publisher), that's their choice. Why should their definitive book on the subject of lark vomit be valued the same as Mr Copycats knock off book?

    Does it cost the same to license Armageddon for TV, as Deep Impact?

    There is one and only possible solution here.

    1. Google digitises the works, that is fair use, the work is not distributed and so cannot cause harm by simply digitizing. Pros, good for society, Yahoo, Microsoft etc. can do it.

    2. Googles makes them searchable but not readable, as it does now with many works. If it steps over the line, and releases too much, there was no deal, and so they are fully exposed to copyright claims and their defense is fair use.

    3. Once the copyright has expired, google can take off the flag and let it be read.

    4. If the author see it, shows how he owns it, they then have to negotiate. It's a case by case thing, there is no right for anyone to negotiate the terms on the owners behalf. Why should the latest best seller have the same price as a nothing work? The authors certainly don't receive the same price!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AllofMP3 to put profits in escrow

    AllofMp3 announced today it would sell orphaned MP3s, but promised to keep the profits in escrow.

    I also plan to sell old movies on my new website:, and put the fee (I reckon 10% of my profits is enough) into a separate company that will ensure the rights of the movie studios are protected.

    When the owners of these orphaned movies prove they own the copyright, they can claim the fee! Who could possible complain about that?

    And to prove this is a good thing, I have Uri Grabacutski of the Protecting Publishers Rights of Russia, and he says this is totally cool and legal! He agrees 10% is generous, so nobody can possibly complain about this!


    Good for goose good for the gander. If it works for books in the US, then it works for movies, software, audio, radio, where-ever orphaned works exists, they can be seized and sold under this principle by anyone, anywhere, and its legal just as long as I stick some unagreed sum in an account as 'payment' for the license I didn't sign approved by someone that didn't have the right to approve it.

    "And now we see two prominent UK authors, Margaret Drabble and Maureen Duffy, join the tiny group of 'representative plaintiffs' in the Google Books class action case. Drabble is the Chairman of the UK Society of Authors. Duffy is the Honorary President of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society."

    If Margaret Drabble or Maureen Duffy, took a book by Terry Pratchet and sold it as though they had the right, Terry would sue their asses and take all their money. It is no different if they try to sell it to Google!

  6. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

    Too man cowards don't get it.

    The author doesn't decide if the book stays in print or not. Its the publisher. If you can't continue to sell enough copies, the book falls out of print.

    Many books are still under copyright protection but are out of print. They still have value...

    Google is essentially asking for the courts to grant them rights to negotiate the $$$ for reproducing and violating the copyrights unless the author specifically opts out.

    The compensation is being negotiated by a guild which may or may not represent them and if they don't object, then the author is screwed unless he already has $$$ to hire attorneys and fight this.

    In short, the agreement should be opt-in. Thus if google wants to include the book in their collection, Then the burden of tracking down the orphan work's author is on them. Unless they can find him/her or their estate and get their permission, then they can't copy/reproduce their works without it being a copyright violation. The burden is on Google because they are the ones who are attempting to profit from this. And note, google is doing this because they believe they can profit from this.

    If the author is not a member of the guild and they did not explicitly give the guild the right to negotiate on their behalf, then the guild does not have the rights and google would obtain the rights through adverse possession. What makes this worse is that once the agreement goes in to effect, then the clock starts ticking.(Statute of Limitations) Don't know how long, but my guess is that the author or their estate would then have 3 years to object once the deal is done. After that, Google is in the clear. No one else has the same rights unless they want to go through the same exercise.

    In short, Google would be using the law to legally still rights not given to them.

    IMHO, the US Library of Congress should be doing this, not a private company.

    Of course, if the US government wanted to, they could probably snatch this away from google.


    Massive fail because behind the software patents, here's another way the law can screw the honest citizen.

  7. Charles King

    @AC (Bill & Ben)

    "Only the owner of the copyright can agree the price."

    - And they will still do so under the GBS:

    'Consumer Purchase Pricing: Rightsholders have two options under the Settlement for setting the sale price of their books sold for Consumer Purchase: they can set the price themselves in U.S. dollars (Specified Pricing) or they can allow Google to set the price based on a multi-factor formula that is designed to maximize revenues for the sale of the book (the "Settlement-Controlled Price").'

    The GBS is remarkable for the massive amount of misleading crap coming from its opponents. The arguments against the GBS seem to fall into 3 groups: outright lies, pure FUD and straw-man nonsense about orphan works.

    I used to think that authors might have a point, until I read a bit deeper and found out how baseless all their whining really is. More power to Google!

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