Google Book Search Settlement Information

I just received the following email from Kinsella Media, LLC, in Washington DC:

[We are] the court-approved Notice Provider in the Google Book Search Settlement.  We are in charge of distributing information about the settlement to authors (and publishers) worldwide.  The legal rights of authors who are your readers or members may be affected by the Settlement.  Therefore we would very much appreciate it if you would share with them information about the Settlement, particularly recently extended key dates.  I’ve attached a press release about the extended dates as well as the Summary Notice about the settlement. 

As an author your legal rights may be affected by the proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit regarding Google’s scanning of books and other writings.  A summary of the Google Book Search settlement is available here



.  Please read this summary carefully.  If you have questions about the settlement, please visit or contact the Settlement Administrator at BookSettlement @ or 1.888.356.0248.

If you do pass along the information, we would be grateful for a quick email reply summarizing your efforts.  We are presenting a report to the court and want to ensure it is as comprehensive as possible.

There is a PDF Press Release (58k)about the extension of the deadline in the Google Books Settlement, as well as an Updated Summary Notice (PDF 63k).

An absolutely mammoth (and eye-bleed-inducing) amount of text is available at, but I’m curious: if you’re an author and you fall within the specified perameters (we do not, for the record), which option did you choose, and why?

Do you find information helpful? What has been the most helpful in enabling you to understand the settlement and how it might affect you? Or are you still not sure what this means?

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  1. 1
    Mike Cane says:

    I will be—haven’t yet—opting out.  My books, my property.

  2. 2
    AgTigress says:

    I think this is one of the cases in which it would be really helpful if one’s publisher actually offered some advice and guidance, since I should have thought the interests of author and publisher are likely to be similar on this.  However, in non-fiction publishing at least, the author is usually the last person to be told anything.

  3. 3
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Personally, I kind of like the fact that the first 40 pages of my second book are up on Google Books (my first book isn’t though, or it wasn’t the last time I looked). I think it’s a great way for a reader to find out if they like my voice and want to read more, AND there are links to buy the book right there too.

    I don’t see it as being any different than putting chapters up on my website and Amazon.

  4. 4

    But Kalen, as I understand this, once books go out of print, Google may have the right to make the whole book available: “This agreement will allow us to make many of these out-of-print books available for preview, reading and purchase in the U.S.” And as I understand this, “out-of-print” is not the same as “out of copyright.” If you don’t either opt in or opt out of the settlement, even if your book is in copyright, if it’s out of print (and by that they mean “out of print in the US”, they can just go straight ahead and make it available:

    The settlement is astonishing in its scope. If approved, it will permit Google, on a non-exclusive basis, to continue to digitize books from any source, and to maintain, expand and sell access to its enormous digital library in a number of specified ways.

    Google will, for example, be able to offer an online “institutional subscription” to U.S.-based academic, government and corporate institutions under which users can view, copy/paste, annotate and print pages. Individual consumers will be able to preview parts of a book free of charge, and purchase online access to an individual book for viewing, copy/pasting, and printing. (Grace Westcott)

    What I find particularly worrying is that this also affects books written by non-US authors, which may be in print somewhere in the world that is not the US, and yet readers from outside the US will not be able to access the books via Google:

    One implication you won’t find mentioned in U.S. summaries is the effect on libraries in Canada and the rest of the world. Unable to get access to a Google institutional subscription outside the U.S., Canada’s university libraries will be unable to compete with the more comprehensive offerings in the U.S., or, for that matter, with the offerings of even the smallest of its public libraries, each of which is entitled under the settlement to free access on one terminal to the entire Google database.

    Because the settlement does not address Canadian rights in books, Canadian users don’t get the benefits; outside the U.S., Google Book Search remains unchanged, unless the offering of such services is directly authorized by the rights-holders, as, for example, in the Google Partner Program. (Grace Westcott)

    As far as I know, my book would be affected by this. Since I have received no money at all for writing it (it was published by a small academic press and required a subsidy in order to be published at all), it’s not as though I’ll be losing money if Google manages to sell copies/access to it once the book goes out of print, and I do want people to have access to my book, but all the same, I don’t see why Google should make a profit out of it, or why readers from outside the US (myself included) should be put at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing books to which US readers will have access.

  5. 5
    AgTigress says:

    ‘Out of print’ is most certainly not ‘out of copyright’.  There may well be all sorts of worrying implications for academic libraries, not to mention antiquarian book dealers, and the ‘US/rest of the world’ issue is also a complex one.
    Many conventional non-fiction publishing contracts include a clause that entitles the author to purchase the publication rights him/herself once the publisher has allowed the book to go out of print and stay OOP for a certain length of time.  This is an important right for the author, as it enables her either to prevent further publication (for example, if she felt that the passage of time had made extensive revision necessary), or, on the other hand, to facilitate the publication of a new edition through a different publishing house, if the work had gone out of print because of changing policies and priorities at the original publisher.  If Google can simply put the text on the internet in its entirety, this drives a coach and horses through existing contractual agreements between writers and publishers, and would make it impossible for a writer to continue to collect royalties through the publication of a new edition after the original one had gone out of print.
    In practice, in the academic and ‘popular academic’ field, authors are often not even informed when a book does go out of print, or even when a new edition appears under another imprint when publishers merge and shape-shift:  I never received any notice of a second edition of one of my books that came out a few years ago (the original edn. was 1996), and only discovered its existence by chance.  Needless to say, I had no opportunity, therefore, to correct a couple of annoying misprints that had appeared in the first edition.  Nor have I ever received a penny of royalties from that second edition. 
    I was in a salaried post before my retirement, and very modest royalties were and are merely a welcome small addition, so I can afford to shrug my shoulders and feel that life is too short to fight over this.  It is quite another matter for those have to live on the income from their books.

  6. 6
    Kalen Hughes says:

    But Kalen, as I understand this, once books go out of print, Google may have the right to make the whole book available: “This agreement will allow us to make many of these out-of-print books available for preview, reading and purchase in the U.S.” And as I understand this, “out-of-print” is not the same as “out of copyright.” If you don’t either opt in or opt out of the settlement, even if your book is in copyright, if it’s out of print (and by that they mean “out of print in the US”, they can just go straight ahead and make it available:

    Holy smoking crack, batman. That’s what I get for not reading the whole damn thing. Thanks for the heads-up. Guess I’ll be opting out ASAP! How in the fuck is this legal?

  7. 7
    AgTigress says:

    How in the fuck is this legal?

    Quite. Heaven knows, copyright law is complicated, and it often does not mean what the ordinary reasonable person thinks it means.  But to that ordinary, non-legal mind, to place a whole text, still in copyright (albeit out of print in the USA) onto the internet without the explicit permission or even the knowledge of the copyright holder sounds like a very clear case of copyright violation.
    I mean, damn it, all they have to do is ASK.  When we write, and we want to use a copyright illustration, or quote at length from a copyright source, we are legally obliged to seek out the owner of the copyright, ask their permission, and (usually) pay a fee, as well as acknowledging the source.  If we are unable to trace the copyright holder, which can easily happen with illustrations, we are expected to include a note to that effect.  How come this standard provision does not apply to Google?  Why is the legal burden placed on authors and publishers to protect themselves against wholesale copyright theft?
    I really do not understand.  There are legally trained and qualified people who contribute to this community—can they elucidate this further for the rest of us?

  8. 8

    How in the fuck is this legal?

    It’s being challenged in the courts, the US Department of Justice is taking a look at it, and so is the EU. But the background is that

    After Google began digitizing the University of Michigan library in 2004, the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and a handful of authors and publishers filed a class-action lawsuit for copyright infringement. Last November, those “class representatives” reached an out-of-court settlement with Google that would, if approved by the federal court, permit Google to post out-of-print books for reading, sales, institutional licensing, ad sales, and other publishing exploitations, by Google, online. The settlement gives the class-action attorneys $30 million; a new, quasi-judicial bureaucracy called the Book Rights Registry $35 million[…]; and $45 million for owners infringed up to now—about $60 a title.[…]

    No one elected these “class representatives” to represent America’s tens of thousands of authors and publishers to convey their digital rights to Google. Nor are the interests of this so-called class identical. (Chu)

    And Lynn Chu, writing in the Wall Street Journal, continues:

    Consider this: Under the settlement, every rights-owner in America is supposed to hand over all their private contract data, on every edition of every work they ever wrote—and every excerpt permission ever granted to others—at the peril of losing the money Google will be making on their backs. This is a massive burden on everyone in the book industry, making us all, in effect, Google’s data-entry slaves. Indeed, in most cases such information about every permission ever granted is unlocatable. It opens a Pandora’s box of disputes and mistaken claims about who actually owns what.

    Further concerns are summarised by John Timmer:

    the agreement as structured could essentially turn Google into the sole rightsholder for orphaned works, which would mean that anyone would have to negotiate with the company over the use of these works. Other objections focus on the fact that Google could control the sale and distribution of out-of-print works, even if the original author decided to release it under a more liberal license. Other recent objections suggest that the settlement, by giving the search giant control of how the out-of-print works are displayed, could allow the company to censor and selectively display these works, based on community standards or political concerns.

    Google will be paying something to authors, but again, I’m not sure exactly how that will work, particularly for those of us who aren’t in the US. What it says on the Google Book Settlement pages is that:

    Google will pay rightsholders 63% of all revenues Google receives from the commercial uses Google makes of the Books. […] [but the article by Chu suggests that this is “net again of all its costs, which are sure to be huge”] Google will pay $34.5 million to establish and maintain a Book Rights Registry, to locate rightsholders and create a database of their contact information and copyright interests in Books and Inserts, and to collect revenues from Google and distribute those revenues to rightsholders, and for notice and settlement administration costs. […] Google will pay a minimum of $45 million to compensate Rightsholders whose works Google has scanned without permission as of May 5, 2009. Rightsholders of works Google has scanned without permission as of May 5, 2009 are eligible for Cash Payments, which will be at least $60 per Principal Work, $15 per Entire Insert, and $5 per Partial Insert.

    They also say that

    If you want to claim a Cash Payment for Books or Inserts digitized by Google on or before May 5, 2009 without your permission, you must submit a Claim Form for those Books or Inserts by January 5, 2010. […]

    To opt out from the Settlement is to send a written request to be removed from the Settlement. If you opt out of the Settlement, you will not receive any of the Settlement’s benefits, and you will not be bound by any of its terms, including the release of claims against Google.

    How can I opt out of the Settlement?
    You may opt out of the Settlement by:

      1. Going online on or before September 4, 2009 at , and following the instructions to opt out

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