Space Ramblings

Google Books’ Copyright Grab Smacked Down

Shocking, but Judge Chin did the right thing by smacking down the bogus Google Books, Author’s Guild deal in which Google got an open door to stack up all the books it wants and the Author’s Guild gets paid for them. Judge Chin rightly observed that this was a precedent sneaking through as a settlement, which means it goes to congress next.

At stake is the whole Orphan Works scam. A beloved term of librarians and academics, orphan works means material whose authors can’t be identified, found or contacted. In practice it usually means a blank check to make use of material and then puts the obligation on the owner to file a complaint. Judge Chin’s basic point was that Google is big enough that it shouldn’t get this kind of blank check and books should be opt in, not opt out.

There’s no real reason why Google Books and the Author’s Guild should be able to take material, make money off it and go on doing it until the rightful owners object. If they do. Google has gotten away with this on YouTube, and beaten Hollywood with a stick. But Google Books isn’t a collaborative effort by users, but a project of a major corporation.

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