Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Book Search program reaches major settlement over copyright concerns, ability to pay authors (with Authors Guild, AAP)

The legal (copyright related) questions underneath book scanning to make millions of books easy to scan and print (partially) from online remain incompletely resolved, but Google has agreed to pay about $125 million to groups of authors and publishers.

The out-of-court agreement means setting up a book “registry.” Authors will use the registry to receive payment for book sales and use of excerpts by individuals and libraries in appropriate circumstances. Book searches typically show three or four lines of text but could expand to larger sections, but authors and publishers would have the ability to require payment for larger quotes in some circumstances.

The original suit had been brought by the Authors Guild (link here, with its own version of the story today and the Association of American Publishers (statement here).

The litigation reflects the tension in the online world that has developed in the past dozen years or so, as the whole paradigm for book publishing and reading changes, with much more emphasis on self-publishing and cooperative publishing and more responsibility for authors, which tends to strain older models for making a living from writing. For example, Authors Guild will not use self-published books to qualify for membership and normally requires prospective members to be able to command and advance royalty for future works. On the other hand, iUniverse (a major cooperative and self-publishing service) has teamed up with Authors Guild to republish many out-of-print books

The New York Times story by Miguel Helft just appeared online, here.

Bloomberg has a similar story by Erik Larson, here (with one update already).

The Book Search Program could mean that more material about individuals, as buried in books (particularly older books), often obscure and perhaps selling slowly in hardcopy but easily searched online, shows up in search engine queries and contributes to perceived “online reputation” problems. It is not possible to remove or change a small amount of text in a for-print book the way it is with a blog entry or social networking profile.

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