Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Google Announces Settlement in AAP Lawsuit

Certainly the publishing environment has changed fundamentally since the AAP and Author's Guild filed a lawsuit to halt the Google Book digitization program. Fears that in-copyright material would be 'stolen' in the process of digitization has now been trumped by greater fears of a digital book future where publishers will only be cursory participants. Rapid expansion of eBook programs at Amazon, SONY, Apple, Google and Ingram have changed the landscape so that publishers are keen to open all avenues for digital distribution of their content. This agreement may make Google the eBook leader ahead of Amazon.com although we will not know this until the dust settles. That eventuality however, will be exactly what publishers will be looking for as they have become increasingly concerned about the position and power of the Amazon eBook (Kindle) offering.

With this agreement, Google will be opening up a vast digital archive of out of copyright books for preview, sale and lending either direct to consumers or via institutions. Additionally, publishers will allow this technology and distribution to be applied to in-copyright material - this is where much of the controversy focused. Google, it was assumed, were digitising materials regardless of copyright status. They placed a moratorium on this process but what content that has been digitized can now be made available and the digitization process can resume. Google has added functionality that enables the copyright owner to turn on or off certain capabilities such as preview or buy.

The agreement also calls for the creation of a rights registry which will create a bibliographic database of copyright ownership information. There will be motivation for publishers and authors to maintain their information in this database since this will be the mechanism used to ensure that they get compensated.

All around on the surface this looks like an excellent compromise. Indeed, it could represent a momentous shift in the way we interact with books and book content. Congratulations to all parties for getting this agreement completed without too much blood spent.

The agreement itself can be found here. It should be pointed out there is compensation to be paid by Google to the AAP and AG. This will fund a pool of money to be dividended to copyright holders whose content was digitized without permission, money to create the copyright registry and attorneys fees. (I wonder who will be doing the registry thing - will it be an RFP?)

UPdate: Other reaction summarized here. (TOC)


MC said...

Even though the registry itself is non-profit that doesn't mean a service provider couldn't be found who would build and maintain it for a fee. I would assume the service provider would be able to make a profit. Your point does raise a question about how long the $35mm will be expected to last before the registry can begin to collect monies to cover costs. Early days yet.

Matthias Ulmer said...

The registry is an Trojan horse. It will allow Google and who ever to take a licence directly by the author without passing by a publisher. This is a black day for the American Publishers. And they not even realize it.