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The Google Settlement: FAIL [Aug. 29th, 2009|09:49 pm]
[Current Mood |tired]

I hope they've got a judge with a brain this time.

In the past week I have spent hours that otherwise might have been productive trying to unclench Google's sticky fingers from my work...it's not done, though I've made progress.

Google will insist that it's doing the world a favor by digitizing everything ever published...and for some old, fragile, rare texts, that may well be true (although if they can't digitize any more accurately than they do on some of my titles...we're going to lose a lot. 

But the thing is, they've decided that "out of print" and "not commercially available" (to their very cursory search)  means "out of copyright and we can do what we want with it."

Which is against the law (copyright law and --since they're grabbing the right to digitize works by non-US citizens published in other countries--international law--to which the US is signatory--which the idiot who allowed the existing settlement was too braindead to notice.)  They're also planning to sell the digital books they make, without a by-your-leave from the writers thereof.

Others have gone into great detail about the painful process Google created so writers can 'claim' or 'assert their rights in' what they've written (rights that exist *from the time it's written* according to copyright law,)   Others have gone into the idiocy of Google's definition of "commercially available" (which denies some books in print and readily available online the "commercially available" label.)   The point (not pounded in enough to the heads of many talking about this) is that being out of print or commercially unavailable DOES NOT END COPYRIGHT PROTECTION.   Out of print has nothing to do with copyright.   Being published by a small press, or held in reserve at the publisher's for orders there, has nothing to do with copyright.  

I have a special corner of hell for the guy who insisted on setting the ISBN boundaries so they exclude books published back when ISBNs did not have "enough" numbers...roughly up to the early '90s.  Apparently Google thinks books written in the 1980s and early 1990s must all be fair game for them because of course they're out of print. But only those who have a bunch of books--in the inevitable multiple editions (hardcover, trade paper, mmpb, book club, foreign publishers--and "inserts" in books (like stories in anthologies) grasp the full physical horror of sitting there hour after hour, day after day, clawing your way through the tiny print on the Google pages,  trying to figure out why it's not finding all the editions, not ever sure it IS finding all the editions, trying to remember what the title of that one book you sold to Poland looks like...etc.  

Grump.  Head, neck, shoulders, back, arms, elbows, hands, fingers all hurt.   And I'm not done yet checking for errors and adding things in.  Older anthologies are the hardest because Google refuses their ISBNs and claims there's no such book over half the time.

But many thanks to Kris, who had produced a sort of guide to claiming one's work on Google.  


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: kristine_smith
2009-08-30 03:26 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kristine_smith
2009-08-30 03:25 am (UTC)
Does the guide still work? I claimed my works today, after having claimed, then deleted the whole list a few months ago. It seemed a little easier to me this time, but. It seemed to me as though some of the steps in the guide were no longer applicable.

I never thought I would be grateful for my relatively small output.

One thing that I thought came in handy was that I could download a spreadsheet listing all my claimed works. There's a button that reads something like "Download spreadsheet." If you have a program like Excel, you can read and, I think, edit.

I hope they throw the settlement out, personally. Unfortunately, I think the fact that Microsoft and other behemoths are challenging it will just mean that authors will have to fill out 3 or 4 of these "Let me out of this thing" forms instead of just one.

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[User Picture]From: litch
2009-08-30 05:19 am (UTC)
I have some sympathy with your complaint but as a reader if a book is out of print and not easily available on the used circuit I think googlebooks is doing a service to humanity.

If your publisher won't print get them to assign right back to you and micropublish. But griefing on google cause you they're trying to make your books available seems against your best interests.
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[User Picture]From: cdozo
2009-08-30 05:47 am (UTC)
Google is violating the author's copyright. The holder of the copyright gets to decide who does what with their work. That's the point of copyright.

And I don't think Google is planning on tracking down the owner of the publishing and copyrights in order to make sure they get paid for the use of the work. Essentially it's just pirating.

Distributing someone's work without proper permission and with no concern about contracts and payments is wrong and not good for the artist. It takes away their means of livelihood. This may lead to the artist not having time to produce any more art. And that would be a bad thing.
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[User Picture]From: teriegarrison
2009-08-30 06:41 am (UTC)
It's a rights grab, pure and simple. And though I'm following my agent's advice and opting in, I'm hoping the Justice Department quashes the whole thing.

I think the *idea* of Google Books is grand: making public domain and out-of-print (and therefore unavailable to the general public) books available. But it should be OPT IN, not OPT OUT. If little old Author X whose books went out of print 30 years ago wants to opt in so that their books become available again, I'm 100% all for that. I read obscure books as a child that I would love to be able to read again.

But I didn't sell the rights to my books to Google; I sold them to Llewellyn Worldwide. It was Llewellyn who paid my advances; Llewellyn who paid my editor, copyeditor, and proofreader; Llewellyn who paid my cover artist; Llewellyn who paid for marketing and publicity people. In a nutshell, it was Llewellyn who paid tens of thousands of dollars to bring my books out in 2006 and 2007.

Why should Google get any profit of sales of my work? They didn't pay for any of that.

Furthermore, by making it OPT OUT within a deadline AND applying it all works around the world, there are going to be hundreds of thousands of authors outside the States who didn't hear about it in time who will miss the deadline. I live in the UK, and loads of my author friends...ones who are very active Internet users...haven't heard a word about this until I mention it.

Why should Google get to grab rights of people outside the States who won't even get a chance to OPT OUT?

Nope; IMNSHO, it should be OPT IN, plus books OUT OF COPYRIGHT. Period.
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[User Picture]From: masgramondou
2009-08-30 10:26 am (UTC)
Initially I thought the google idea was a good one. And in theory I still do. Thanks to Disney & co extending copyright to a ridiculous length there are many many orphan works that deserve to be put out in the public domain and reprinted instead of disappearing into a black hole. So Google's idea of digitizing everything and making it available is, in that respect, a good one.

The problem is that, as with so many things, the idea fails in the pesky details section. In this case it hurts, in particular, the successful author with a long backlist but it seems to me that in general the original settlement betwene google and the authors guild was just shabby all around.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-08-30 11:53 am (UTC)
It wasn't just shabby, it was flat out illegal. Look--the distinction between so-called "orphan works" and works under existing copyright is very clear--Google's attorneys deliberately blurred it. For works still in copyright, the law requires that a publisher contact the author before any use of that material other than brief "fair use" quotes.

A writer whose copyright is still valid can contact a publisher (including Google) to see if that publisher will take on an out of print/rights-reverted book. But it's the writer's choice. Nobody other than the writer gets to decide if a book that's tanked on the market gets another chance out there.

There are plenty of books that are out of copyright, and if Google had stuck to digitizing those, there would be little fuss. If they had offered to digitize long-out-of-print books that writers couldn't find a new publisher for--put out a call--and had contracts with those writers, there would be little fuss. But that's not what they did. What they did was go into libraries and digitize books that were covered by copyright protection without asking permission, and propose to distribute them via the internet, at a profit to themselves, without compensation to the writer. That's copyright infringement. That's theft of intellectual property.

I don't give a fig whether the movie industry or the music industry or Congress extended copyright to what someone else thinks is "ridiculous lengths." Copyright has made it possible for me to survive as a writer, and latterly to support a family with my writing. I want copyright to stand, and Google to obey the law. Ask before grabbing. PAY before grabbing.

But now I must run, or be late to church, and this afternoon I must tangle with the ridiculous (you want ridiculous, look at their process for claiming works!) Google forms.

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[User Picture]From: moonsinger
2009-08-30 01:06 pm (UTC)
It seems pretty clear cut to me. Google is stealing. Why not get a person (or people) who are dedicated to checking to see if a work is copyrighted or public domain? I was going to say they could pay for the right to publish a book, but how would the author get paid for it? That's beyond my knowledge of publishing law.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-08-31 03:25 pm (UTC)
Publishers like Dover Books do hire people to check out whether some old book they want to publish is in the public domain or not. (This includes the design elements Dover has published.) That's how it's properly done. Intellectual property experts know how to do the searches and have done it for years.

Google should have done that.

True orphan works (works still in copyright but whose authors can't be found) are much rarer than Google-y press releases would lead you to believe. Unless the writer's decided he/she doesn't want an earlier work brought out again (and that happens--if your first novel was a snuff-porn one under another name, and twenty years later you're gathering fame as the author of literary novels that might someday get you a Pulitzer or Nobel, you might be very glad that the first novel is out of print, that publisher went bankrupt, and you've burned every copy you can find) most writers are ridiculously easy to find. And not every orphan work is worth recovering (not just the snuff-porn novel of the now-famous professor, but a host of undistinguished "airplane books" or "beach books"that were simply light entertainment from day one and quickly went OOP.)

For instance, I've Googled (using Google's search engine, yes) a range of authors from famous to one-book writers in SF/F, some of whom I know have had their work digitized. All--every one--came up high (mostly first, except a few with very common names) on a Google search of their name. One or two seconds...there they were. I venture to say that every SFWA member, every member of Novelists, Inc, every member of two of the online writers' groups I'm on, would also come up high on a Google name search. Websites, Wikipedia bios, Amazon.com lists of their books...there they are, plain as day. While chasing down a possible scammer, I found that a number of self-published (or scam-published) writers are just as findable with Google. I venture to say that the proportion of "findable" to "unfindable" writers is high: most living, and many recently deceased (past 20 years) writers can be located online, with sufficient information to determine if they're alive, what they wrote, and with clues to locating them.

SFWA occasionally loses track of "obscure" members or the administrators of estates, but some of them want to stay lost. That's their right.

If you can't find the rights-holder, don't use the work. Very simple.

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[User Picture]From: kk1raven
2009-08-30 03:15 pm (UTC)
If Google had simply created a way for authors whose books were out of print to easily make them available again and/or had stuck to digitizing works in the public domain, I'd think they were doing a great thing. I'm disgusted by what they're actually doing though. Do you have any suggestions for helping to put a stop to this?
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-08-31 02:20 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Here's how Google might have gone about doing it the right way:

1) Go on digitizing works clearly in the public domain. There are lots of them and it would take years to scan these very old texts that do not have any previous digital files.
2) Hire (as other publishing companies have done) intellectual rights experts to work through the mass of material from the 20th c. (where most of the "problems" exist) and digitize as they are able to show works are in the public domain.
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[User Picture]From: eir_de_scania
2009-08-30 03:20 pm (UTC)
Not only are they stealing from the authors, they are stealing from the publishing companies as well.

To quote teriegarrison: "It was Llewellyn who paid my advances; Llewellyn who paid my editor, copyeditor, and proofreader; Llewellyn who paid my cover artist; Llewellyn who paid for marketing and publicity people. In a nutshell, it was Llewellyn who paid tens of thousands of dollars to bring my books out in 2006 and 2007."

They wouldn't have done that if another company could publish the finished work. Actually, they couldn't have done it as they probably would be out of business...
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[User Picture]From: rowan_ree
2009-08-30 06:06 pm (UTC)
With all the half-price books and various used books stores around, many out of print books are find-able. Someone might have to do a bit of work to find it, but they can. And with this option, the authors still maintain their copyrights.
What they are doing is pure theft. Plain and simple.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-08-31 02:34 pm (UTC)

Google's definition of "commercially unavailable" and equating that with "out of print" and "in public domain" is simply one big fat lie.

For instance: books with a long publishing lifespan may be "commercially unavailable" by Google's definition while being "in print" by the publishing house's catalog...or may be out of print between editions (on the day Google looked, let's say) or actually out of print while the author is busy trying to get rights reverted...or may be in print in a newer edition (with a new cover, for instance.) Google is acting as if every edition of a title is a different book (it is, for inventory purposes, but not for reader purposes: you get the same text in the mass market as in the hardback or trade paper edition, the same text whether you bought the expensive leather-bound Easton Press edition or the mass market at Half Price Books.)

My books go in and out of print (esp. the older ones) and my agent nudges the publisher if they're unavailable too long (a month) but it can take awhile to find an open slot in a printer's schedule. Does this mean the world is going to rack and ruin because one of my books isn't on the shelves somewhere? No. It's usually a dip in my royalty statement if the gap is several months long, but not permanent.

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