Monday 30 March 2009

Google Giveth and Google Taketh Away

Google is EvilI'm a Google enthusiast, I admit it. I've switched from Internet Explorer and Firefox to Google Chrome. I enjoy Google Earth. I use Google Docs. I use Google Maps. I run Google Adwords. I blog on Google's Blogger.
But for every wonderful thing Google giveth, Google taketh away. 
Today, literary agent Lynn Chu of Writers Representatives took a microscope to the labyrinthine terms of the recent Google settlement and spelled it out in language even an author can understand .
Chu warns authors to pay attention (all authors who've ever had anything published in the United States) -
(by 5 May 2009) ... every author and publisher in America is supposed to decide whether to "opt in," "opt out," or simply "ignore" a vast compulsory licensing scheme for the benefit of Google.
Given that authors are notorious at procrastination, I am helpfully bullet-pointing the highlights of the article below. But do read the complete article in the Wall Street Journal  titled 'Google's Book SettlementIs a Ripoff for Authors: Why allow a single publisher to throw out a functioning copyright system?'. 
  • who are the winners of the settlement? the lawyers get $30 million, the Book Rights Registry gets $ 35 million, and infringed authors? $ 60 a book.

  • "every rights-owner in America is supposed to hand over all their private contract data, on every edition of every work they ever wrote -- and every excerpt permission ever granted to others -- at the peril of losing the money Google will be making on their backs"

  • The Book Rights Registry - Says Chu:
    The Internet was supposed to eliminate middlemen, not pack multiple layers on. The BRR is in fact merely Google's contract negotiation and claims department
    • "Google's erstwhile adversaries are paid off with the aforementioned Book Rights Registry (BRR), which will compete with the U.S. Copyright Office and the federal courts"

    • "The BRR expects to read everyone's contracts to say who is owed what of Google's revenues -- net again of all its costs, which are sure to be huge"

  • "The U.S. Constitution grants authors small monopolies in their own copyrights. Author market power is talent-based and individual, not collective. This class action seeks to wipe all this out -- just for Google. But U.S. law does not grant any single publisher monopoly power to herd all of us into its list"
Meanwhile, several authors have suddenly woken up to the realisation that books are fair game to the piracy that has previously plagued other media.
Publishers and agents representing the authors J. K. Rowling and Ken Follett were battling last night to get free copies of their novels removed from a Californian website that claims to be the most popular literary site in the world. Read More has earned the dubious title of the "YouTube for books".
I kind of disagree with Liu's point that the current copyright system is good enough. 

I think it's under siege.

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