I looked at my calendar and realized that six months have flown by and we are now approaching the extended deadline for authors to opt out of the Google Book Search settlement. You have until Sept. 4, 2009 to decide whether or not to remain in the class action suit brought by the Author's Guild and the American Association of Publishers.
If you are the author of a book published prior to Jan. 5, 2009 and you take no action, you will be included in the settlement and will be bound by its terms. If you wish to file an objection to the settlement you also must do so prior to Sept. 4, 2009. If you want to remain in the suit and want to receive payment for books Google uses, you must claim them by Jan. 5. 2010. Here's the link to the the page on Google's official site where you can make your wishes known.
Google Book Search Settlement Notice to Rights-holders - Books & Inserts Registry.
And here's their FAQ.
A recap: In September 2005 the Author's Guild and the American Association of Publishers sued Google for copyright infringement, because Google was scanning and making searchable books, mainly academic texts from libraries. The scanned pages included advertising. The lawsuit was granted class-action status. Three years later Google settled with the Author's Guild and the AAP in an agreement worth 125 million dollars. The agreement establishes a Book Rights Registry to collect proceeds from the display of the books and apportion the funds to the rights holders.
I blogged about all of this last spring. I think the deal is rotten, largely because there is no oversight of the Book Rights Registry, and no avenue that I can see for authors and their representatives to negotiate their rate of payment, but also because it gives Google a virtual monopoly on the electronic display of out of print books. That's my opinion. I urge all authors with books published prior to Jan. 5, 2009 to educate themselves about the settlement and what it means for them. Remember, just because you don't know about it and/or don't do anything about it does not make your work exempt from the terms of the settlement. (And that may be the part that infuriates me most of all. It's in direct conflict with the principle that copyright is inherent. But I'm not going to go off on a rant again like I did before. Really.)
Currently, the Justice Department is investigating the settlement. The Internet Archive has asked Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo! to join it in urging the Justice Department to oppose the settlement, and apparently they have, citing that it would hamper competition on the marketplace. Attorney and author Scott Gant of Boies Schiller & Flexner is also opposing the settlement, on the grounds that the use of class action in this case represents an abuse of the process and that authors are not fairly compensated in the agreement or adequately notified of it.
The William Morris Agency has recommended its clients opt out of the agreement. The National Writer's Union and American Society of Journalists and Authors have also objected to it. But the settlement has many defenders as well, including the National Federation of the Blind, the Association of Independent California Colleges, and Sony.