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#1 Mary Robinette Kowal

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Posted 20 January, 2010 - 04:53 PM

Welcome to the SWFA's online panel on the Google Book Settlement. The deadline for opting-out is Janary 28, 2010 and since many authors are still on the fence about what to do, our hope is that this conversation will help you to make a choice that best suits your writing career.

At 11:30 EST we will be opening the forum to questions from the audience. If you have not already read the Forum Discussion Guidelines and How do I participate in the Google Settlement panel? I encourage you to do so.

We're going to start today by introducing having our panelists introduce themselves and give a brief opening statement.

I am Mary Robinette Kowal and have served as SFWA's secretary for the past two years and will be the moderator during this discussion.
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#2 Paul Aiken

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:05 AM

Good morning, everyone.

In December of 2004, Google announced that it would scan millions of copyright-protected books and make those scans available to users of the Google search engine in "snippet" form. Google would profit from the display of those snippets by selling ads. Google also planned to give to university libraries these scans. We sued Google in 2005 in order to assert authors' rights to control those scans.

In the course of the litigation, we proposed a settlement. Under the settlement, rightsholders would gain control of the scans of their books and would be empowered to instruct Google to display, hide or remove their scans.

Our proposal also allowed for the creation of an entirely new market for out-of-print books. This would allow for the display of out-of-print books (unless the author or publisher of the book declined) in a handful of ways, with 63% of the revenues going to the rightsholders through a new non-profit organization, the Book Rights Registry. The Book Rights Registry will be controlled solely by authors and publishers (not Google) and will charge an administrative fee to cover its costs.

The creation of this new market was key to getting a settlement and will be a new source of revenues for authors and publishers. Through the settlement, authors will be able to decide whether to take advantage of this market or not.

Rather than type out a more detailed description of the settlement, I'd like to encourage people to go to this overview: http://authorsguild....hors-guild.html
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#3 Lou Anders

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:08 AM

Good morning all,
I’m Lou Anders. I’m the editorial director of Pyr books (http://www.pyrsf.com/index.html), the science fiction and fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books (Pyr will be five years old in March, yay!). I’m also the editor of nine anthologies, and a former journalist with over 500 articles published in over 100 magazines. I’m a nonfiction author and short story writer as well, a former playwright and screenwriter too. So, in terms of my "relationship" with the Google Settlement - I've written across several media that are affected, most notably nonfiction.
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#4 Michael Capobianco

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:14 AM

Good morning.

My name is Michael Capobianco. I've served three terms as SFWA President, the last from 2007-2008, and I'm directly affected by the Google Settlement in that I am a rightsholder of five out-of-print, rights reverted books. That makes me a member of the author sub-class. I'm not entirely sure if I have any inserts affected, since they were not independently registered with the Copyright Office. I have chosen to opt out of the Setlement. Some of SFWA's response to the settlement has been delegated to me by the current President, Russell Davis, and I helped arrange a successful panel on the settlement that took place yesterday, and will be viewable on the web in the next couple of days.
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#5 Charlie Stross

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:17 AM

Hi. I'm Charlie Stross. I'm a full-time novelist resident in Edinburgh, Scotland, published in the UK and USA (and in translation in about a dozen other languages). I've got about fifteen books in print at present. My US publishers are Ace and Tor; my UK publisher is Orbit. Further details here:

http://www.antipope....iction/faq.html

I'm unhappy about the Google Book Settlement; however, after seeking advice from my publishers and my agents, I have reluctantly opted in to the settlement. I'm pretty sure I'm here as an example of a cheese-eating surrender monkey. (Please don't throw any rotten fruit, m'kay?)

Note that I don't live in North America and I'm not American. This skews my perspective somewhat.

I'm not going to rehash the arguments over whether Google have acted lawfully or otherwise. My reason for opting in is purely pragmatic: from where I stand, I don't see any practical alternative.

By opting out of the settlement, I would be reserving the right to sue, in a foreign court, a foreign multinational with annual revenue of $20.5Bn. I certainly don't have the financial resources to go head-to-head with them on my own, and I am unsure of my ability to participate in any US-based class action lawsuits against Google. Opting out and pursuing action looks like a recipe for spending lots of money on legal counsel for scant -- or no -- reward. QED.

What I can hope for is that other parties with more clout -- the French and German governments, for example, or the major publishers, or the US Department of Justice -- can blunt Google's assault on IP rights while bringing forward primary legislation to deal with the orphan works problem.

(I'd like to note in passing that we aren't the only targets of Google's quest to put all available data online -- whether they have rights to it or not -- and to monetize it for themselves via advertising.)
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#6 Lynne Thomas

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:18 AM

Good morning.

I am the Head of Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, IL. I have been an academic librarian for 11 years. I work closely with over 40 SFWA authors affected by the settlement as their archivist. (More information about the SFWA collections at NIU can be found here: http://www.ulib.niu....encefiction.cfm.)

I’m also an academic author (a class of authors that is excluded from the settlement itself, over the objections of the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries). My opinions are my own, but are based on my understanding of the responses of these library organizations to the settlement.
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#7 Steven Popkes

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:20 AM

Question: How do reprints get handled by the google settlement? For example, an out of print book is scanned and put on line. At a later date, a reprint of the book is contemplated. What happens to the book on line? What rights does an author have to reprint a book that is now on line?
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#8 Mary Robinette Kowal

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:21 AM

Thank you all. One thing I would like to encourage our guests to do is to click on the links that the panelists provide. There's a lot of information out there.

It seems as though one of the points of conflict for many writers is the balance between feeling as though the idea of the Book Registry is wonderful for the public good but that Google has done something illegal and should not benefit from it. Do any of you have an opinion on that?
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#9 Michael Capobianco

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:29 AM

I don't think if the settlement is approved, it could be described as "illegal." It's certainly an audacious and unprecedented use of the class action process, and it stands copyright on its head, but its not illegal if a court of law approves it and no appeals are successful.
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#10 Lou Anders

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:29 AM

The idea of a universal library is wonderful and something many science fiction authors and fans have dreamed about all their lives. But I'm very disturbed by any organization or endeavor that utilizes an opt-out strategy over an opt-in. I don't even like it on websites that make me unclick their right to spam me rather than choose to click, so I certainly don't like it here. Since they've made orphaned works a key issue, isn't it fair to assume that a majority of rights holders of orphaned works -- or at least a significant percentage -- aren't from the demographic most likely to be online and savvy enough to know their rights as copyright holders are being negotiated away by organizations that may not even legally represent them? I'm not a member of any professional guild at present (though I was once ordained by the Universal Life Church of Modesto California without even asking to be--pretty good for an agnostic), so why is the onus on me to scramble to protect rights that were previously guaranteed?
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#11 Paul Aiken

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:30 AM

We agree that Google has infringed copyright. That's why we sued them. At the end of the day, however, we want authors to make money from their works -- that's the point of copyright. Settling in a manner that allows authors to earn more money, while retaining control of their works makes sense from a hardheaded business perspective.

In settling, we were focused on what's best for authors. Significant new markets are good for authors.

Google does benefit, too. But we'd rather not cut off our nose to spite our (collective) face.
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#12 Lou Anders

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:31 AM

I like this quote from Jay Lake: "The Google Books settlement inverts the entire modern history of copyright, moving licensing from something controlled by the author (or other copyright holder) into something which can in effect be homesteaded by any entity large enough to not be concerned with individual lawsuits for copyright violation."

http://jaylake.livej...om/1783372.html
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#13 Charlie Stross

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:32 AM

... the balance between feeling as though the idea of the Book Registry is wonderful for the public good but that Google has done something illegal and should not benefit from it.


The need for the Book Registry arises because our current model of copyright -- which we as writers depend on for remuneration -- is regrettably broken in a number of ways.

Right now we've got copyright for life plus 70 years.

This is, I would argue, excessive. Roughly 95% of all authors' works fall out of print within 5 years of their deaths, and stay that way. This sets us up for the orphan works problem -- after 50 years the copyright holder of a given work may be very hard to trace indeed (unless it's Disney).

However the copyright duration (and copyright model) is locked in via the Berne Convention and other treaties, so that significantly amending it would require multilateral international agreement. Worse: the large media organizations (such as Disney) have a vested interest in extending the duration of corporate copyrights.

Something like the Book Registry is long overdue and very useful indeed. But we shouldn't necessarily be thanking Google for it; all Google did was make it glaringly necessary by embarking on a campaign of systematic copyright violation. And the opt-out model sticks in my throat.
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#14 Paul Aiken

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:33 AM

Without the opt-out mechanism, we couldn't get the critical mass needed to get the ball rolling: there would be no new institutional subscription market for out-of-print works.

It's annoying to have to claim your work to exercise your rights under the settlment, but without that, authors would have fewer opportunities to earn money. We'd like authors to have that opportunity.
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#15 Lynne Thomas

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:34 AM

Pragmatically, the idea of having one-stop-shopping for copyright clearance sounds great--it means much less hassle for my patrons, for instance, when trying to do reprints or get permissions.

I'm a bit nervous, however, about the possibility that this "universal library" will not be very universal. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the United States has consistent internet access.

It also seems a bit odd to me that the onus is on the copyright holders, rather than on those seeking reproduction or access, and that copyright law is essentially being re-written by one corporation, rather than Congress.
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#16 Lou Anders

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:35 AM

An articular summation from Cory Docotor: "The Authors Guild -- which represents a measly 8000 writers -- brought a class action against Google on behalf of all literary copyright holders, even the authors of the millions of "orphan works" whose rightsholders can't be located. Once that class was certified, whatever deal Google struck with the class became binding on every work of literature ever produced. The odds are that this feat won't ever be repeated, which means that Google is the only company in the world that will have a clean, legal way of offering all these books in search results.

The Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers (who took part in the settlement) totally missed the real risk of Google Book Search: they were worried about some notional income from advertising that they might miss out on. But the real risk is that Google could end up as the sole source of ultimate power in book discovery, distribution and sales. As the only legal place where all books can be searched, Google gets enormous market power: the structure of their search algorithm can make bestsellers or banish books to obscurity. The leverage they attain over publishing and authors through this settlement is incalculable."

http://www.boingboin...search-s-1.html
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#17 Paul Aiken

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:36 AM

The so-called orphan works problem has been wildly overstated. Overseas organizations that license photocopy rights on an opt-out basis (that's the standard way it's done outside the U.S.) have a great deal of success in locating out-of-print authors. Upwards of 90%.

Here, the Authors Registry has about an 85% success rate.

The Book Rights Registry will have the job of locating authors it has money for who haven't come forward. All evidence from prior efforts is that it will be largely successful.
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#18 Mary Robinette Kowal

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:37 AM

How real is the danger that Google will have a monopoly on this?
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#19 Charlie Stross

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:38 AM

I'm a bit nervous, however, about the possibility that this "universal library" will not be very universal. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in the United States has consistent internet access.


Also contrary to popular belief, this settlement affects a lot more than the United States -- in coming to a globally applicable settlement with the Authors Guild, Google have implicitly decided to extend US jurisdiction to copyrights worldwide (as in: they've decided that the GBS gives them global clearance to digitize books). It's interesting to note what the French courts think of this.
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#20 Paul Aiken

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Posted 21 January, 2010 - 10:40 AM

We don't agree with Cory Doctorow's views.

The future of book publishing won't hinge on the display of out-of-print library books. It's useful for research, of course, but in-print books will continue to dominate the market.

No publisher would have agreed to this settlement if they thought otherwise.
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