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in Filmmaking
on Dec 6, 2008

Below I posted a piece about the settlement Google recently made with authors and publishers involving the scanning of out-of-print books. The chief link was to a program on KCRW’s “The Politics of Culture” that discussed the legal implications of the settlement. Now on Today’s Zaman is a piece entitled “Google revolution the end of the publishing world?” It’s a collection of responses from key critics and editors about the effect of the settlement, and the key take away seems to be “good for readers, good for authors, bad for used-book stores and complicated for the ‘information wants to be free’ crowd.”

Here, from Peter Osnos, editor-in-chief of PublicAffairs books:

There has been a lot of major news … but, for the media business, nothing was more important than Google’s settlement with book publishers of lawsuits challenging the right to digitize copyrighted books for search and distribution without paying for them. Google will pay $125 million to the plaintiffs, publishers and authors, and will cover legal fees for what was a protracted haggle. A structure will be established to continue the scanning of millions of books and making them available for online access with a pricing protocol that can be monitored via sales or, for libraries, subscriptions. There is even a split for any advertising revenue generated by the book pages. The agreement itself is 141 pages plus attachments, and there will now be months of sorting out the details before final court approval and a launch sometime in 2009. Having plowed through the agreement myself and read whatever analysis I could find, there are still a myriad of vexing issues to be resolved, such as whether a book available only in digital form can be considered “in print”; how to accommodate access online for single use versus the right to print or forward the material; setting a reasonable royalty split between authors and publishers for e-books; whether the library subscription model has any further commercial applications, and so forth. This deal is very much a work in progress, and while congratulations are in order to the negotiators, care with nuance is going to be crucial.

But the major point is that Google has now conceded, with a very large payment, that “information is not free.” This leads to an obvious, critical question: Why aren’t newspapers and magazines demanding payment for use of their stories on Google and other search engines? Why are they not getting a significant slice of the advertising revenues generated by use of their stories via Google?

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