Sunday, August 30, 2009

More questions than answers on Google Books; CNet News, 8/29/09

Tom Krazit via CNet News; More questions than answers on Google Books:

"Google's Dan Clancy had patiently answered question after question regarding Google's' Book Search settlement with publishers and authors until late in the afternoon Friday, when he was finally left speechless.

A young man from the University of California at Berkeley's School of Information asked Clancy what kind of message was sent when Google decided to "copy first and answer questions later." The question--for which there's no safe answer, if you're in Clancy's shoes--perhaps underscored the core of the opposition to the settlement, reached in October, after Google was sued in 2005 for scanning out-of-print works without explicit permission.

If the class action settlement is approved, Google stands to gain control of a priceless asset. Jason Schultz, acting director of UC Berkeley's Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic, called it "the largest copyright-licensing deal in U.S. history:" the right to display the contents of out-of-print books that are still covered by copyright protection.

Google, however, has already scanned more than 10 million books. At the moment, it's not allowed to display more than a few snippets of copyright-protected books for which it doesn't have an explicit agreement with the rights holders. If the settlement is approved, Google will suddenly flip a switch and offer full-text searches of those books, as well as links to bookstores.

Nothing vexes Google's opponents more than the fact that the company assumed that it had the right to digitize nearly 100 years of written material without serious negotiations with those rights holders until it was sued. Authors have until Friday to decide if they want to opt out of the settlement and preserve the right to sue Google on their own for digitizing their book without their permission, though they can tell Google to remove their books from the Book Search archive, even if they remain in the class...

But taking Google at its word requires trust, and trust in corporations is in short supply at this point in American history. It's taken perhaps longer than it should have, but Google is gradually realizing that a fair portion of the public no longer sees it as a cute little Silicon Valley start-up with idealistic stars in its eyes, one that insists "you can make money without doing evil."

Google damaged that trust when it began scanning books without permission, arguing that it was allowed to do so under fair-use laws. Publishers and author groups also harmed that trust when they turned over the key to the castle by bringing the lawsuit as a class action, suddenly making plaintiffs out of millions of authors who did not necessarily appreciate the future value of digital books in 2005, nor authorize the negotiation of the rights to their works."

Google's plan for world's biggest online library: philanthropy or act of piracy?, Observer, 8/30/09

William Skidelsky via Observer; Google's plan for world's biggest online library: philanthropy or act of piracy?:

Google has already scanned 10 million books in its bid to digitise the contents of the world's major libraries, but a copyright battle now threatens the project, with Amazon and Microsoft joining authors and publishers opposed to the scheme.

"In recent years the world's most venerable libraries have played host to some incongruous visitors. In dusty nooks and far-flung stacks, teams of workers dispatched by Google have been beavering away to make digital copies of books. So far, Google has scanned more than 10 million titles from libraries in America and Europe – including half a million volumes held by the Bodleian in Oxford. The exact method it uses is unclear; the company does not allow outsiders to observe the process.

Why is Google undertaking such a venture, so seemingly out-of-kilter with its snazzy, hi-tech image? Why is it even interested in all those out-of-print library books, most of which have been gathering dust on forgotten shelves for decades? The company claims its motives are essentially public-spirited. Its overall mission, after all, is to "organise the world's information", so it would be odd if that information did not include books. Like the Ancient Egyptians who attempted to build a library at Alexandria containing all the known world's scrolls, Google executives talk of constructing a universal online archive, a treasure trove of knowledge that will be freely available – or at least freely searchable – for all.

The company likes to present itself as having lofty, utopian aspirations. "This really isn't about making money" is a mantra. "We are doing this for the good of society." As Santiago de la Mora, head of Google Books for Europe, puts it: "By making it possible to search the millions of books that exist today, we hope to expand the frontiers of human knowledge."

Dan Clancy, the chief architect of Google Books, offers an analogy with the invention of the Gutenberg press – Google's book project, he says, will have a similar democratising effect. He talks of people in far-flung parts being able to access knowledge as never before, of search queries leading them to the one, long out-of-print book they need.

And he does seem genuine in his conviction that this is primarily a philanthropic exercise. "Google's core business is search and find, so obviously what helps improve Google's search engine is good for Google," he says. "But we have never built a spreadsheet outlining the financial benefits of this, and I have never had to justify the amount I am spending to the company's founders."

It is easy, talking to Clancy and his colleagues, to be swept along by their missionary zeal. But Google's book-scanning project is proving controversial. Several opponents have recently emerged, ranging from rival tech giants such as Microsoft and Amazon to small bodies representing authors and publishers across the world. In broad terms, these opponents have levelled two sets of criticisms at Google.

First, they have questioned whether the primary responsibility for digitally archiving the world's books should be allowed to fall to a commercial company. In a recent essay in the New York Review of Books, Robert Darnton, the head of Harvard University's library, argued that because such books are a common resource – the possession of us all – only public, not-for-profit bodies should be given the power to control them.

The second, related criticism is that Google's scanning of books is actually illegal. This allegation has led to Google becoming mired in a legal battle whose scope and complexity makes the Jarndyce and Jarndyce case in Bleak House look straightforward.

At its centre, however, is one simple issue: that of copyright. The inconvenient fact about most books, to which Google has arguably paid insufficient attention, is that they are protected by copyright. Copyright laws differ from country to country, but in general protection extends for the duration of an author's life and for a substantial period afterwards, thus allowing the author's heirs to benefit. (In Britain and America, this post-death period is 70 years.) This means, of course, that almost all of the books published in the 20th century are still under copyright – and last century saw more books published than in all previous centuries combined. Of the roughly 40 million books in US libraries, for example, an estimated 32 million are in copyright. Of these, some 27 million are out of print.

Outside the US, Google has made sure only to scan books that are out of copyright and thus in the "public domain" (works such as the Bodleian's first edition of Middlemarch, which anyone can read for free on Google Books Search).

But, within the US, the company has scanned both in-copyright and out-of-copyright works. In its defence, Google points out that it displays only snippets of books that are in copyright – arguing that such displays are "fair use". But critics allege that by making electronic copies of these books without first seeking the permission of copyright holders, Google has committed piracy.

"The key principle of copyright law has always been that works can be copied only once authors have expressly given their permission," says Piers Blofeld, of the Sheil Land literary agency in London. "Google has reversed this – it has simply copied all these works without bothering to ask."

In 2005, the Authors Guild of America, together with a group of US publishers and publishers, launched a class action suit against Google that, after more than two years of wrangling, ended with an announcement last October that Google and the claimants had reached an out-of-court settlement. The full details are staggeringly complicated – the text alone runs to 385 pages – and trying to summarise it is no easy task. "Part of the problem is that it is basically incomprehensible," says Blofeld, one of the settlement's most vocal British critics.

Broadly, the deal provides a mechanism for Google to reimburse authors and publishers whose rights it has breached (including giving them a share of any future revenue it generates from their works). In exchange for this, the rights holders agree not to sue Google in future.

The settlement stipulates that a body known as the Books Rights Registry will represent the interests of US copyright holders. Authors and publishers with a copyright interest in a book scanned by Google who make themselves known to the registry will be entitled to receive a payment – in the region of $60 per book – as compensation.

Additionally, the settlement hands Google the power – but only with the agreement of individual rights holders – to exploit its database of out-of-print books. It can include them in subscription deals sold to libraries or sell them individually under a consumer licence. It is these commercial provisions that are proving the settlement's most controversial aspect.

Critics point out that, by giving Google the right to commercially exploit its database, the settlement paves the way for a subtle shift in the company's role from provider of information to seller. "Google's business model has always been to provide information for free, and sell advertising on the basis of the traffic this generates," points out James Grimmelmann, associate professor at New York Law School. Now, he says, because of the settlement's provisions, Google could become a significant force in bookselling.

Interest in this aspect of the settlement has focused on "orphan" works, where there is no known copyright holder – these make up an estimated 5% to 10% of the books Google has scanned. Under the settlement, when no rights holders come forward and register their interest in a work, commercial control automatically reverts to Google. Google will be able to display up to 20% of orphan works for free, include them in its subscription deals to libraries and sell them to individual buyers under the consumer licence.

"The deal has in effect handed Google a swath of intellectual copyright. It is a mammoth potential bookselling market," says Blofeld. He adds it is no surprise that Amazon, which currently controls 90% of the digital books market, is becoming worried.

But Dan Clancy of Google dismisses the idea that, by gaining control over out-of-print and orphan works, Google is securing for itself a significant future revenue stream. He points out that out-of-print books represent only a tiny fraction of the books market – between 1% and 2%. "This idea that we are gaining access to a vast market here – I really don't think that is true."

James Gleick, an American science writer and member of the Authors Guild, broadly agrees. He says that, although Google's initial scanning of in-copyright books made him uncomfortable, the settlement itself is a fair deal for authors.

"The thing that needs to be emphasised is that this so-called market over which Google is being given dominance – the market in out-of-print books – doesn't currently exist. That's why they're out of print. In real life, I can't see what the damage is – it's only good."

It is by no means certain that the settlement will be enacted – it is the subject of a fairness hearing in the US courts. But if it is enacted, Google will in effect be off the hook as far as copyright violations in the US are concerned. Many people are seriously concerned by this – and the company is likely to face challenges in other courts around the world.

Over the coming months, we will hear a lot more about the Google settlement and its ramifications. Although it's a subject that may seem obscure and specialised, it concerns one of the biggest issues affecting publishing and, indeed, other creative industries – the control of digital rights.

No one knows the precise use Google will make of the intellectual property it has gained by scanning the world's library books, and the truth, as Gleick points out, is that the company probably doesn't even know itself. But what is certain is that, in some way or another, Google's entrance into digital bookselling will have a significant impact on the book world in years to come."

OpEd: Pioneers such as Google need to be policed; Observer, 8/30/09

OpEd: Observer; Pioneers such as Google need to be policed:

"THERE HAS BEEN frenzied speculation in recent weeks that Apple is about to launch a revolutionary, hand-held device called the Tablet. Meanwhile, Google is mired in a protracted legal dispute over its right to create an online archive of the world's library books, including millions still in copyright. At first glance, these two pieces of news don't have much in common, but both are part of a battle being waged by the world's big-tech companies for dominance of the digital future.

One way to get a handle on the digital world is to think of it as a new, uncharted landmass, one that has become navigable thanks to the internet. Beyond this new frontier – a kind of 21st-century wild west – lies a terrain where scarcely unimaginable wealth is waiting to be unlocked. Only this time the key battle isn't over a physical resource but over a non-physical one: information. Information is the real estate of the digital age and it is this that the likes of Google, Microsoft and Apple are in the business of exploiting, whether by providing it free, by owning it or by controlling the channels through which it can be sold and delivered.

The opening up of this frontier raises big questions. What do we want the digital realm to look like? Do we want it to be controlled by a few large companies or should it be more pluralistic and democratic? The distrust that many of us feel toward a company such as Google (even while we enthusiastically use its products) stems from a fear that it may be seizing control of this territory before most of us even quite appreciated what was there.

We are both right and wrong to be worried. Right, because it is true that there is a potential for monopolies to be created, and because crucial legal rights, in particular, intellectual property, are in danger of being trampled on as we highlight elsewhere in the paper.

But at the same time, it is important to remember that we have reasons to be grateful for the existence of big, innovative corporations. Just as in the 19th century it was only the railway companies that had the muscle to "open up" the American west, so it is the Googles and Apples of our day that have the vision and wealth to unlock the resources of the digital realm. Apple can create wonders like the Apple Tablet because it has the money to hire the world's best inventors; and Google can scan most of the world's library books because it has the vision and chutzpah to undertake such a venture.

However, it is imperative that such companies are subjected to rigorous scrutiny and proper regulatory vigilance so that dangerous acquisitions of power don't take place."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Google Book Search? Try Google Library; CBS News, 8/27/09

CNet's Tom Krazit via CBS News; Google Book Search? Try Google Library:

Plan to Bring Millions of Books Online Raises Concerns over Privacy, Quality and Motive

"There's a sense among several of those planning to speak at Friday's conference that an Internet corporation--even one sworn to "do no evil"--does not necessarily share the same values and principles that librarians rabidly defend. And left unsaid, but by no means absent, is the growing scrutiny paid this year to Google's dominant position in the Internet search market and how that power squares with Google Books and the publishing industry...

Universities do have an alternative in the HathiTrust, a digital library project that counts UC Berkeley and the University of Michigan--also a close partner of Google's--among its partners. That service lacks the scope of what Google is potentially entitled to scan, but it curates the material in a fashion that's better suited to the needs of the academic community.

That's good, because at the moment, Google Book Search is almost laughably unusable for serious research, UC Berkeley's Nunberg said. For example, he pointed out that the Charles Dickens classic "A Tale of Two Cities" is listed in Google Book Search as having been published in 1800; Dickens was born in 1812.

Nunberg plans to speak out on the quality issues with Google Book Search, although he readily concedes that the product was not designed for the needs of academics and scholars. But that only underscores the point: if Google Book Search is the only way to obtain a digital copy of a book 100 years into the future, scholars will have to depend on it for research, he said...

"There's a lot of questions about how they will balance (their) mandate as a for-profit corporation and their mission to provide universal access to information," [ALA's Angela] Maycock said. If it really wants to make the controversy over this settlement go away, Google needs to embrace "the ethical framework that libraries operate under," she said."

Librarians apply scrutiny to Google Books at Berkeley con; ZDNet Government, 8/27/09

Richard Koman via ZDNet Government; Librarians apply scrutiny to Google Books at Berkeley con:

"If you’re in the Bay Area and you want a full day of wonky debate, check out UC Berkeley’s Google Books Conference. It features panels on how the Google Books settlement affect data mining, privacy, information quality and public access.

The conference comes hard on the heels of the formation of the Open Book Alliance, an organization driven by the Internet Archive and including Amazon, Yahoo and Microsoft, as well as library and small publishing groups among its members. Most of the speakers are opposed to the deal but Google’s Tom [sic] Clancy will be there to make the company’s argument....

But if Google is the last library, as Berkeley linguist Geoff Nunberg says, it’s a pretty bad one. That means serious library science must be applied to the online collection before we should outsource the history of human (or at least Western) knowledge to Google:

Google Book Search is almost laughably unusable for serious research, UC Berkeley’s Nunberg said. For example, he pointed out that the Charles Dickens classic “A Tale of Two Cities” is listed in Google Book Search as having been published in 1800; Dickens was born in 1812."

Google Book Search - Is it The Last Library?; Register, 8/29/09

Cate Metz via Register; Google Book Search - Is it The Last Library?:

"Geoff Nunberg, one of America's leading linguistics researchers, laid this rather ominous tag on Google's controversial book-scanning project amidst an amusingly-heated debate this afternoon on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.

"This is likely to be The Last Library," Nunberg said during a University conference dedicated to Google Book Search and the company's accompanying $125m settlement with US authors and publishers. "Nobody is very likely to scan these books again. The cost of scanning isn't going to come down. There's no Moore's Law for scanning.

"We don't know who's going to be running these files 100 years from now. It may be Google. It may be News Corp. It may WalMart. But we can say with some certainty that 100 years from now, these are the very files scholars will be using."...

Predictably, Google Book Search engineering lead Dan Clancy takes issue with The Last Library characterization. He acknowledges that some of the works Google has scanned will never be scanned again. But he's adamant that although Google has a 10-million-book head start - and a monopoly-building boondoggle of a settlement with authors and publishers - others will compete.

"I don't view Google Book Search as the one and only library," he said. "I don't think it should be and I don't think it will be - in part because, remember, a library is about accessing information, not just accessing books. Libraries were created because books were where information was in the past.

"Libraries are about information, and...Google is not the only book-scanning activity in existence today. There will continue to be other activities. And the internet provides all sorts of information that are linked together in all sorts of ways."...

Though he wouldn't say how much Google has spent scanning books, Clancy admitted it wasn't cheap. "It's a lot," he said. "If this was just tens of millions of dollars, we wouldn't all be siting here debating this. Microsoft would have kept scanning. And there would be much more incentive to do this.""

Google's One Million Books; Forbes, 8/28/09

Steve Pociask via Forbes; Google's One Million Books:

There is still major concern over Google's settlement with author and publisher groups.

"Imagine that your home and the homes of millions of your neighbors are burglarized. Now, say you catch the perpetrator and the case goes to trial. What would you expect--the return of all of your valuable possessions, stringent penalties for damages and jail time for the perpetrator? But instead, the judge agrees to a settlement that lets the perpetrator avoid any penalties, jail time or probation; he lets the perpetrator use the stolen contents for as long as he wants, provided he pays each victim a one-time fee per item; and, for those victims not knowing that their contents were stolen, the perpetrator can keep and use it, without any compensation or penalty at all. Would such a settlement seem fair?

While just an illustration, there are similarities to what is happening now in a court case involving online scanning and use of millions of books, which is in direct violation of copyright protections given to authors and, in this case, the Department of Justice has taken notice, as have a number of state attorneys general and the European Union's competition commission.

In the coming days, authors must decide whether to opt out of the settlement, and in the coming weeks Judge Denny Chin is likely to decide on a settlement involving copyright infringement claims against Google."

Has Google Already Won The Book War?; Forbes, 8/26/09

Dirk Smillie via Forbes; Has Google Already Won The Book War?:

It scanned first and asked questions later. Opponents of a rights settlement may not have a chance.

"Excerpts, and in many cases the entire contents, of a staggering number of books are readily available on Google Book Search, yet some of the most definitive works on Google itself are nowhere to be found at the site. Recent searches for Jeff Jarvis' What Would Google Do?, David Vise's The Google Story and John Battelle's The Search produced the following message: "no preview."

Snippets and excerpts of 7 million other books do show up in the database, which critics accuse of being unfairly selective and financially unjust to writers. These are some of the concerns held by William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, which last week fired off an e-mail alert to its authors, urging them to opt out of a complex settlement between Google ( GOOG - news - people ), the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers."

Europe Seeks to Ease Rules for Putting Books Online ; New York Times, 8/28/09

James Kanter via New York Times; Europe Seeks to Ease Rules for Putting Books Online:

"The European Commission on Friday will propose drafting rules that would make it easier to put many books and manuscripts online. The move is a part of the commission’s effort to bolster access to information and to encourage online businesses.

The changes would be aimed at allowing Internet users to access out-of-print works and so-called orphan works for which it is impossible or very difficult to trace the rights holders, said Viviane Reding, the European Union commissioner who oversees the Internet.

Any new rules eventually proposed by Ms. Reding could also make it easier to acquire a single digital copyright covering the European Union, rather than having to deal with agencies in each of its member states....

Ms. Reding is stepping up her campaign to modify the European Union’s copyright rules to suit a new era and to enable citizens to locate content on public sites like Europeana, a digital library of Europe’s cultural heritage, as well as on private sites.

A hearing will be held next month in Brussels on Google’s efforts to digitize major collections of books and the company’s proposed settlement with book publishers in the United States.
Ms. Reding said Europeans should “look very closely at the discussions in the U.S. to see how the experience made there could best be used for finding a European solution.”

On Thursday, European officials highlighted the role that private companies like Google could play in helping financially struggling public authorities carry out the expensive task of digitizing materials like books.

Ms. Reding’s suggestions — which are open to public comment until mid-November — broadly mirror aspects of United States copyright law and echo the proposed Google settlement by creating a central registry for the works."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Google brings dead books back into being;, 8/27/09

Bill Echikson via; Google brings dead books back into being:

OPINION: FOURTEEN YEARS ago, I published a book called Burgundy Stars: a Year in the Life of a Great French Restaurant . Despite warm reviews, sales were tepid and it soon went out of print. Today, you have to either go to the library and hope my take on haute cuisine is stocked or search in used book shops. I have moved on to work for Google and my book remains in copyright but almost impossible to find, writes BILL ECHIKSON...

For in-copyright books, services like Google Book Search or Amazon’s Look Inside the Book partner with publishers who provide us with their books, which we scan and put online with a limited preview of the text. Readers gain a good idea of the content of the book and get information on where to purchase or borrow the book. All told, some 25,000 publishers have signed up to participate in Book Search’s Partner Programme, contributing over one million books.

Books which are in copyright but out of print are the trickiest category, and the one that makes up the vast majority.

The agreement announced in October 2008 between Google and a broad class of copyright holders in the US will dramatically expand access to out-of-print books, creating new revenue opportunities for authors and publishers. The new registry should help reduce the number of in-copyright works whose owners cannot be identified or found because authors will have a concrete economic incentive to come forward, claim their works and then earn money. For books that are in-print, the agreement would offer new distribution opportunities to copyright holders in the US.

What does this breakthrough mean for Europe? Unfortunately, little. International authors and publishers whose books have been scanned from an American library may benefit from the new revenue that will come as American readers discover and purchase their books. They can register with the new registry to control and profit from online access to their books, or, just like American authors, they can choose to opt out.

The registry will also benefit rightsholders by helping potential licensers for Europe reach out to rightsholders and negotiate agreements to license works in the EU. But no readers outside of the US will reap the benefits American readers will see – because the agreement is under US law, it can only govern what happens within the US.

The European handwringing over this project seems out of place. I have not made a cent on Burgundy Stars since publication. Under the new Google deal, I may finally get some further value from my copyright. I look forward to the time when readers have a chance to rediscover my long lost book and I would love not only for Americans to receive this opportunity, but for readers around the world, too.

Bill Echikson is author of four books and senior manager of European communications in Google"

The New Rumpelstiltskin: Google Books; San Francisco Chronicle, 8/21/09

Michelle Richmond via San Francisco Chronicle; The New Rumpelstiltskin: Google Books:

"There's a new Rumpelstiltskin in town, but he's not going after the miller's daughter. This Rumpelstiltskin has set his sights on authors, who, according to critics, may unwittingly spin him buckets full of gold. Judging from the panic issuing from home offices and cafes across the country, you'd think he was trying to steal our firstborn.

I'm talking about Google Books, and a deal negotiated between the Internet giant and the Authors Guild: the Google Books Settlement.

Maggie Shiels of the BBC writes today about the late but noisy outcry from Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon, who protest the settlement on the grounds that it constitutes a monopoly on digitization of books. The naysayers in the Internet industry have a point, not to mention an enormous stake in the matter. But coming purely from an author's perspective, I feel quite a bit less alarmed than some of my colleagues.
I'm of a mind to believe that the settlement may actually be advantageous for authors. For one thing, we write books in the hopes that they will be read....

There's a wee bit of money involved, but not enough, at the outset, to be a determining factor unless you're truly a starving artist. Each author will get anywhere from $60 to $300 per book that was scanned by Google without authorization. That's enough to buy a few reams of paper or a nice bottle of Scotch, but not much else. In the future, authors will share with publishers 67% of the profits gleaned from digitization of their books, with 33% going to Google (therein the spun gold). Profits will presumably come from ads listed beside any page of a book, as well as from purchases of digital copies of the book--if the author chooses to allow this type of purchase. Ultimately, this could turn out to be a lot of money, but again, it's too early to tell.

That's really not so scary, is it? Of course, Rumpelstiltskin didn't appear scary either, when he first appeared to the miller's daughter, offering to help her spin gold for the king. It wasn't until later that he showed his true colors, and tried to make off with her baby."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Open Books Alliance calls for investigation into Google Books Settlement; Information World Review, 8/25/09

Information World Review; Open Books Alliance calls for investigation into Google Books Settlement:

"The Open Books Alliance seeks resolution on issues of copyright, access, anti-trust and privacy.

SLA chief executive Janice Lachance said: “A completely electronic, searchable, and universally accessible repository of digital books has the potential to bring untold value and knowledge to individuals, organisations and libraries, making more information available to more people around the globe. We look forward to that day. “In the meantime, we are joining this effort because we believe that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) must look into the full ramifications of this settlement on issues of copyright, access, affordability and privacy.”

SLA aims at ensuring that any mass book digitisation and distribution system addresses those extremely important issues, and that access to such valuable information remains open and competitive.

“As with any important legal decision that may threaten the accessibility of information to the public, SLA believes it should be grounded in sound public policy, be mindful of the long-term benefits for the greater good, as well as take into consideration input from the public and important stakeholders,” Lachance added.

In the coming weeks, the alliance will release information about its intent, the members, and its actions, including specific details as to its intended course of action with the DOJ."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ownership of Unix Copyright Headed to Trial; New York Times, 8/24/09

Associated Press via New York Times; Ownership of Unix Copyright Headed to Trial:

"A federal appeals court on Monday reversed a judge's decision that grant the copyright of the Unix computer operating system to Novell Inc.

A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a judge erred in August 2007 by granting the copyright to Novell. The panel ordered a trial to determine ownership.

Novell, a software and computer infrastructure company, has been locked in a yearslong legal battle with The SCO Group Inc. of Lindon, Utah, over ownership to the copyright."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Europe Divided on Google Book Deal; New York Times, 8/24/09

Kevin J. O'Brien and Eric Pfanner via New York Times; Europe Divided on Google Book Deal:

"The proposed U.S. legal settlement giving Google the right to sell digital copies of millions of books is dividing publishers and authors in Europe, which has struggled to develop viable alternatives to Google’s ambitious book digitization project.

Some big European publishers, like Oxford University Press, and Bertelsmann and Holtzbrinck, which own Random House and Macmillan respectively, support the agreement, which remains subject to approval by a U.S. judge. They see the pact as greatly expanding the visibility of their archives for online purchase. But opposition to the deal, which would allow U.S. consumers to buy online access to millions of books by European authors whose works were scanned at U.S. libraries, is mounting.

There is widespread opposition among French publishers, and the government of Germany, along with national collection societies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain, plan to argue against it and encourage writers to pull out of the agreement...

Some are also concerned about a lack of European representation on the Book Rights Registry, a panel that is supposed to collect and distribute revenue from Google’s U.S. book sales to authors and publishers."

News Corp 'in talks on web news consortium'; Guardina, 8/21/09

Jason Deans via Guardian; News Corp 'in talks on web news consortium':

"News Corporation executives have met counterparts from rival newspapers including the New York Times and Washington Post to discuss forming a consortium to charge for online news content, according to a US report today.

Jonathan Miller, News Corp's chief digital officer, is believed to have talked to executives from the Times and Post, along with other major US newspaper publishers including Hearst and Tribune, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The meetings, held in recent weeks, were to discuss forming a consortium that would charge for news content on the web and mobile devices, reported the LA Times, which is published by Tribune.

Earlier this month the News Corp chairman and chief executive, Rupert Murdoch, revealed that the company planned to start charging for content on all its news websites in the US, UK and elsewhere in the next year.

"Quality journalism is not cheap," said Murdoch. "The digital revolution has opened many new and inexpensive distribution channels but it has not made content free. We intend to charge for all our news websites."

Murdoch added that he had completed a review of the possibility of charging and that he was willing to take the risk of leading the industry towards a pay-per-view model: "I believe that if we're successful, we'll be followed fast by other media."...

He accepted that there could be a need for furious litigation to prevent stories and photographs being copied elsewhere: "We'll be asserting our copyright at every point."

Spain's magicians say television show that gives away secrets is a dirty trick; Guardian, 8/20/09

Giles Tremlett via Guardian; Spain's magicians say television show that gives away secrets is a dirty trick:

"Spain's magicians are up in arms over a television show hosted by a rebel prestidigitator who reveals many of the secrets behind their tricks.

The magicians have asked Spanish lawyers to come up with ways of challenging the Masked Magician and his programme Magic Without Secrets in court, claiming that their favourite tricks should be protected by intellectual property laws...

The last time a Spanish artist tried to claim a copyright to a "magical" act, they also failed to win compensation...

Magicians in Brazil reportedly were partially successful in a case against the same Masked Magician show when it was aired by a television station there, but lawyers said Spanish law offered little protection.

"The best thing is to keep your trick secret and not teach it to anyone else," said a Spanish lawyer, Andy Ramos on his blog.""

Google's book project faces growing opposition; Guardian, 8/19/09

Ed Pilkington via Guardian; Google's book project faces growing opposition:

"The latest objection, filed with the Manhattan court today, comes from a Washington-based lawyer and writer who specialises in class-action law and monopolies. In his 47-page complaint, Scott Gant argues that potentially millions of authors in America and around the world are being coerced into accepting the deal without being fully informed about its implications.

"Anyone taking part in this project should be doing so as a conscious choice to participate knowing fully what they are doing. In fact, people are being forced to hand over to Google some of their intellectual property often with no understanding of what that means," Gant said.

Under US class-action law, authors and publishers who do not specifically opt out of the settlement are deemed to have signed up to it. But Gant points out that as an author himself — he wrote a book on the digital information revolution called We're All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in the Internet Age — he has never received any legal notice about the case.

Google announced its plans five years ago, arguing that the project to build up an online archive of millions of books that are out of print was part of its mission to "organise the world's information". It has already scanned at least 7m books, using cameras able to convert up to 1,000 pages an hour.

Most of the books, which must have been published before 5 January this year, have come from libraries and publishers in the US. Google has so far struck partnerships with 29 of the world's biggest libraries, including those of Harvard and Stanford and the Bodleian in Oxford."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Chinese Court Jails and Fines Pirates of Windows Software; New York Times, 8/22/09

Associated Press via New York Times; Chinese Court Jails and Fines Pirates of Windows Software:

"A court in eastern China has sentenced four people to prison and ordered payment of about 11 million renminbi ($1.6 million) in fines for distributing pirated versions of Microsoft’s Windows XP and other software.

The Business Software Alliance, an industry trade group, lauded the court’s decision as the first successful prosecution of large-scale, online software piracy in China. Microsoft likewise applauded the handling of the case.

“It shows the government is really taking action,” Liu Fengming, vice president for the greater China region for Microsoft, said in a statement."

Stephenie Meyer Sued for Copyright Infringement; New York Times, 8/22/09

Dave Itzkoff via New York Times; Stephenie Meyer Sued for Copyright Infringement:

"An author who accused Stephenie Meyer, the writer of the best-selling “Twilight” novels, of plagiarism has filed suit against her, Reuters reported.

Earlier this month, a lawyer for Jordan Scott, the author of the 2006 vampire novel “The Nocturne,” sent a cease-and-desist letter to Ms. Meyer’s publisher, Hachette Book Group, that said her work contains many situations that are similar to those in Ms. Meyer’s 2008 book “Breaking Dawn,” the fourth entry in her series about a romance between a mortal woman and an undead vampire. A lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in California reiterated those similarities, noting, for example, that both books contained passages about a wedding and an after-wedding sex scene on a beach. Hachette Book Group said that Ms. Meyer had based “Breaking Dawn” on an earlier, unpublished sequel to “Twilight” that she wrote. The publisher called the suit a “publicity stunt to further Ms. Scott’s career,” and said it expected the court would dismiss it, according to Reuters."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why is the Antitrust Division Investigating the Google Book Search Settlement?; Huffington Post, 8/19/09

Pamela Samuelson via Huffington Post; Why is the Antitrust Division Investigating the Google Book Search Settlement?:

"As I explained last Monday, the settlement is audacious because it uses the legal jujitsu of the class action procedure to give Google a breathtaking license to all in-copyright books. The agreement authorizes Google to create a digital library of these books and to commercialize most of them. Google will compensate rights holders for commercialization of these books either directly if they signed up with the Google partner program or indirectly through a newly created Book Rights Registry (BRR) whose job is to distribute money to rights holders signed up with BRR.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division announced in late April 2009 that it was investigating whether the settlement agreement is, as some critics charge, an agreement that will unreasonably restrain trade or create a monopoly that would enable Google to extract monopoly rents from the books and further entrench Google's dominance in the search market.

Antitrust analysis generally starts with a definition of the affected market. The market for digital books is currently rather small, but it is growing. Many predict that it will become a major market in the future. Clearly, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as Google, can negotiate with rights holders of in-print books to make these books available in digital form (although the settlement would give Google the right to scan the books first and negotiate later). Google argues that Amazon and other digital booksellers can also license rights to sell digital books from the BRR. And of course, anyone can sell or give away public domain books...

My concerns about the competition-policy consequences of the settlement center on the market for institutional subscriptions. The settlement gives Google the right to have and make available the contents of a universal library of books. Anyone else could build a digital library with public domain books and whatever other books it could license from publishers or BRR. But no one else can offer a comparably comprehensive institutional subscription service because only Google has a license to all out-of-print books. Google's optimistic estimate is that only 10 percent of the books in the corpus will really be "orphans," but 10 percent is still roughly two million books. Suppose the real percentage of orphans is closer to 30 percent and another 20 percent of those whom BRR tries to sign up tell the BRR reps to get lost...

Under the Bush Administration, the DOJ would likely have done nothing about the GBS settlement. But the Obama Administration takes antitrust seriously. We will know very soon what DOJ plans to do, for the judge presiding over the settlement agreement has asked DOJ to report on its antitrust analysis by September 18."

Life in a Google Book Search World; Inside Higher Ed, 8/12/09

Inside Higher Ed; Life in a Google Book Search World:

While the settlement gives lawyers and scholars fodder for debating the intricacies of often arcane antitrust law provisions, its real-world implications for university research libraries are already apparent, according to Jonathan Band, legal counsel for the Library Copyright Alliance, which represents thousands of libraries in three major associations. Speaking at a panel on the Google settlement at the National Press Club here Tuesday, Band said it is obvious that any library that hopes to remain competitive will be forced to purchase an institutional subscription from Google Book Search.

“[The university’s] faculty will insist upon it,” he said. “Its students will insist upon it.”

“There’s a product they have to have, and in essence there’s one supplier,” Band added.

The cost of institutional subscriptions, which will last for a limited period before renewal is necessary, will differ across institutions based in part on enrollment numbers, according to the settlement. Libraries that purchase subscription services will gain access to the full text of Google’s entire library, which now contains more than 7 million books. The search engine’s immodest goal from the outset, however, has been to eventually put the world’s written history at the public’s fingertips.

For all the concerns that Google’s Book Search provokes, there seems little argument that the basic concept -- broad-based access to knowledge -- serves an inherent good. Researchers are unsurprisingly excited by the possibilities presented by a searchable full-text database of obscure, forgotten works. But it is Google’s potential hold on those obscure works that most worries James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at New York Law School.

Grimmelmann is particularly concerned about the Google settlement’s treatment of so-called “orphan” works, a term used to describe books for whom the copyright owner may be unknown or nonexistent. Since copyright endures for 70 years beyond an author’s death, it's possible that an author’s grandchild or other relative may unknowingly hold a copyright, making it practically impossible to track him or her down.

Under the settlement, Google is permitted to presume it has the consent of any as-yet-undiscovered copyright owner -- insulating the company from costly legal challenges that another would-be book digitizer might invoke when scanning orphan works.
In the context of competition, the orphan works are “the thing [Google has] that no competitor could hope to match,” Grimmelmann said.

Grimmelmann’s concerns about orphan works are misguided and overblown, according to David Balto, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “Orphan” status is only bestowed upon books for which publishers see no viable market, and whose “parents” are “indifferent,” he said. Essentially, such works have little value, and therefore hardly give Google an advantage, Balto said.

While Grimmelmann readily praised the potential benefit of Google’s digitization project, he said the project’s social good does not erase his concerns about Google’s unfair advantage.

“We wouldn’t say a monopolist should be excused of particular acts of monopoly because it does other good things,” he said."

Microsoft, Yahoo Unite Against Google Book Search; InformationWeek, 8/21/09

Thomas Claburn via InformationWeek; Microsoft, Yahoo Unite Against Google Book Search:

A new coalition opposed to Google's Book Search settlement has been formed.

"The major areas of contention revolve around issues of privacy, exclusivity, and indemnification from liability. Critics of the settlement want Google to commit to: offering online readers the same privacy protection enjoyed by offline readers; an open registry system rather than one controlled by two publishing industry groups; and indemnification from copyright claims for those who want to scan orphaned works -- books for which the copyright holder cannot be found -- as Google has done.

In May, Google said that it planned "to build and support a digital book ecosystem to allow our partner publishers to make their books available for purchase from any Web-enabled device," showing that Google Book Search will become a platform for Google book sales. This presumably explains Amazon's reported decision to join the coalition opposing the settlement.

To Google, Microsoft's public opposition seems incongruous because the company shuttered its Live Book Search project last year "to focus on search verticals with high commercial intent, such as travel...

Google insiders have acknowledged being surprised by the breadth of the opposition to the Book Search settlement and the company has recently been more energetic about making its views known."

Tech groups join fight against Google books; London Times, 8/21/09

Mike Harvey via London Times; Tech groups join fight against Google books:

"Critics say that the deal gives Google the unimpeded ability to set prices for libraries, once they scan books and put them on the Internet. They also say that it would also allow Google — and only Google — to digitise so-called orphan works, which could pose an antitrust concern. Orphan works are books or other materials that are still covered by US copyright law, but on which ownership rights are not clear.

Google took issue with the criticism. Gabriel Stricker, a spokesman for the company said: "The agreement is not exclusive. If improved by the court, it will expand access to millions of books in the US."

Tech's Heavyweights Put Google's Books Deal In Crosshairs; Wall Street Journal, 8/21/09

Jessica E. Vascallero and Geoffrey A. Folwer via Wall Street Journal; Tech's Heavyweights Put Google's Books Deal In Crosshairs:

"Three technology heavyweights and some library associations are joining a coalition led by a prominent Silicon Valley lawyer to challenge Google Inc.'s settlement with authors and publishers.

Peter Brantley, a director at coalition co-founder Internet Archive said the group, whose members will be formally disclosed in the next couple of weeks, is being co-led by Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley lawyer involved in the Department of Justice's antitrust investigation against Microsoft Corp. last decade. Microsoft, Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have agreed to join the group. Mr. Reback did not reply to requests for comment.

Microsoft and Yahoo confirmed their participation. Amazon declined to comment.

The coalition is the latest sign that Google's rapid ascent has made it a prime target for competitors, just as Microsoft was reviled as the industry's bully in the 1990s.

Google defended the settlement, struck last October with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. "The Google Books settlement is injecting more competition into the digital books space, so it's understandable why our competitors might fight hard to prevent more competition," a Google spokesman said in a statement...

Since last year, a broad group of authors, librarians, European publishers and privacy advocates have argued that the settlement gives Google an unfair copyright immunity in offering future services around digital books that would be tough for other businesses to match."

Google Rivals Will Oppose Book Settlement; New York Times, 8/21/09

Miguel Helft via New York Times; Google Rivals Will Oppose Book Settlement:

"Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo are planning to join a coalition of nonprofit groups, individuals and library associations to oppose a proposed class-action settlement giving Google the rights to commercialize digital copies of millions of books...

Gary L. Reback, an antitrust lawyer in Silicon Valley, who is acting as counsel to the coalition, said that Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo had all agreed to join the group, which is tentatively called the Open Book Alliance. The group, led by Mr. Reback and the Internet Archive, a nonprofit group that has been critical of the settlement, plans to make a case to the Justice Department that the arrangement is anticompetitive. Members of the alliance will most likely file objections with the court independently.

“This deal has enormous, far-reaching anticompetitive consequences that people are just beginning to wake up to,” said Mr. Reback, a lawyer with Carr & Ferrell, a firm in Palo Alto, Calif. In the 1990s, Mr. Reback helped persuade the Justice Department to file its landmark antitrust case against Microsoft.

Some library associations and groups representing authors are also planning to join the coalition, he said."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Murdoch closes paper as free news squeeze begins;, 8/20/09; Murdoch closes paper as free news squeeze begins:

"Rupert Murdoch's News International, which plans to begin charging for online content, said Thursday it was to close its free London newspaper as part of cost-cutting measures.

The Londonpaper, which employs 60 editorial staff, will cease publication within a month, according to a statement...

Rupert Murdoch said earlier this year his News Corp. media empire would begin charging for online content on its portfolio of titles including The Wall Street Journal, the London Times and the New York Post.

"We are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear to many newspapers that the current model is malfunctioning," he told analysts in May."

Major Objection to Google Book Search Settlement Is Filed; Publishers Weekly, 8/19/09

Andrew Albanese via Publishers Weekly; Major Objection to Google Book Search Settlement Is Filed:

"The Google Book Search settlement has its first significant objection. On Wednesday morning author and attorney Scott Gant filed a 50-page objection with the court that claims the sweeping deal is an illegal expansion of class-action law. In a copy of the brief shared with PW, Gant, a Harvard-educated lawyer with more than a decade of class-action litigation experience, and the author of We're All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Law in The Internet Age (Free Press), argues that the settlement is a “predominantly commercial transaction,” that “cannot be imposed through the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23,” the order that authorizes class action.

Among his arguments, Gant asserts that the settlement:

Fails to satisfy notice requirements imposed by Rule 23 and the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause

Fails to provide putative class members with adequate compensation

Fails to satisfy the typicality and adequacy requirements of Rule 23

Would vest Google with significant market power which it could not acquire without the settlement.

Raises serious antitrust issues that must be considered as part of this Court’s review of the Proposed Settlement.

Gant’s most damaging argument, however, may be that the settlement fails to safeguard the due process rights of absent class members as required by law—a potentially fatal blow to the settlement, because if upheld by the court, it would remove a critical foundation of the deal, under which Google would essentially obtain a license to works without the specific consent of the copyright holder."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lawyer and Author Adds His Objections to Settling the Google Book Lawsuit; New York Times, 8/19/09

Miguel Helft and Motoko Rich via New York Times; Lawyer and Author Adds His Objections to Settling the Google Book Lawsuit:

"In the latest objection, Scott E. Gant, an author and partner at Boies Schiller & Flexner, a prominent Washington law firm, plans to file a sweeping opposition to the settlement on Wednesday urging the court to reject it.

This is a predominantly commercial transaction and one that should be undertaken through the normal commercial process, which is negotiation and informed consent,” Mr. Gant said in an interview. Google and its partners are “trying to ram this through so that millions of copyright holders will have no idea that this is happening.”

Unlike most previous objections to the project, which focused on policy issues and recommended modifications to the settlement, Mr. Gant argues that the agreement, which gives Google commercial rights to millions of books without having to negotiate for them individually, amounts to an abuse of the class-action process. He also contends that it does not sufficiently compensate authors and does not adequately notify and represent all the authors affected.

Legal experts, who had not seen the filing but heard a description of it, said it could be the most direct attack on the agreement so far.

It may be the most fundamental challenge to the settlement yet,” said James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School, a critic of the agreement whose blog tracks filings and commentary related to it...

“I opted out of the settlement just on ornery grounds,” said Christopher Buckley, author of “Thank You for Smoking” and “Losing Mum and Pup,” a memoir. He said he was suspicious of the claims by Google and the Authors Guild that the settlement would help breathe new life into out-of-print works. “I think books either stay in print or don’t pretty much on their own,” he said.

He said he was skeptical that the agreement was increasing the public good. “Whenever I hear capitalism proclaiming noble motives,” he said, “something makes me check my wallet.” "

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Pushback Against the Google Book Search Settlement; Library Journal, 8/11/09

Norman Oder via Library Journal; More Pushback Against the Google Book Search Settlement:

"The Google Book Search Settlement, heading for a court hearing in October but also the subject of a Department of Justice antitrust inquiry, is beginning to generate more skepticism from arbiters of the public interest...

Questions of fairness

Samuelson questions whether the AAP and AG were fair representatives of the larger classes, and whether the Book Rights Registry can represent “the thousands of times larger and more diverse class of authors and publishers of books from all over the world.”

She noted, for example, that many academic authors “would much rather make their works available on an open access basis than to sign up with the Registry.”

Her subsequent column will explore why the Antitrust Division is investigating. In response, Law professor Mike Madison predicted, “The Justice Department will, in the end, facilitate a deal that gives other book scanning projects a release regarding orphan works that is comparable to what Google is getting via the settlement.”

Should authors opt out?

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that agency William Morris Endeavor has advised authors it represents to opt out of the settlement because it would “bind copyright owners in any book published prior to January 9, 2009 to its terms.”

The Authors Guild responded that William Morris was off-base."

National Writers Union Opposes Google Book Settlement;'s Epicenter, 8/13/09

Ryan Singel via's Epicenter; National Writers Union Opposes Google Book Settlement:

"Add yet another voice to the chorus of protests over a proposed settlement of a class-action copyright suit that clears Google to transform the world’s dusty library tomes into the bookstore and online library of the future.

This time, the National Writers Union — which represents some 1,500 freelance writers — described a proposed deal as “grossly unfair to writers.”...

But Google should not have digitized books without authors’ permission, said Larry Goldbetter, the president of the National Writers Union, which operates as a local of the United Auto Workers. Google argues such scanning is covered by the Fair Use provision of copyright law, which allows for transformative and partial uses of copyright material.

“[W]riters whose copyrights were violated might receive a check for between $60 and $300 for each book and $15 per article,” he added. “Compared to the number and seriousness of the violations, the amount being offered by Google to each writer is ridiculously low.”"

Monday, August 17, 2009

Courts put DVD ripping on shaky ground;, 8/14/09

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes via; Courts put DVD ripping on shaky ground:

"Two court decisions send a message that both DVD ripping and DVD ripping hardware/software is illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act."

Superman Creator's Heirs Win Rights to Early Stories; Am Law Litigation Daily, 8/14/09

Ross Todd via Am Law Litigation Daily; Superman Creator's Heirs Win Rights to Early Stories:

"A federal district court judge in Riverside, Calif., ruled Wednesday that the heirs of Superman cocreator Jerry Siegel are co-owners of copyrights to the first two weeks of Superman daily newspaper strips and other early Superman material. The ruling is the latest in an ongoing dispute between the heirs and DC Comics and Warner Brothers.

Judge Stephen Larson's decision allows the Siegels to recapture stories of Superman's origins on planet Krypton, his launch as a baby into space, and his crash-landing on Earth. Warner Brothers and DC still own copyrights to other elements of the Superman character, including his ability to fly, some other superpowers, the term "kryptonite," and the villain Lex Luthor. Here's a copy of Larson's 92-page decision."

Podcast: Lawrence Lessig "The Google Book Search Settlement: Static Good, Dynamic Bad?", Berkman workshop on the Google book search settlement,7/31/09

Podcast: Lawrence Lessig "The Google Book Search Settlement: Static Good, Dynamic Bad?", Berkman workshop on the Google book search settlement:

U.C. Professors Air Google Book Search Settlement Concerns;, 8/17/09

Clint Boulton via; U.C. Professors Air Google Book Search Settlement Concerns:

"Eighteen faculty members for the University of California say they are concerned about the Google Book Search settlement. Though the professors aren't opposing the deal, they are seeking changes that will prevent price-gouging, as well as mechanisms to let academic authors of orphan books license their books to the public domain or Creative Commons. They also share the privacy concerns voiced earlier by the ACLU and EFF."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Sincerest Form of Lawsuit Bait; New York Times, 8/16/09

Charles McGrath via New York Times; The Sincerest Form of Lawsuit Bait:

"But Mr. Colting’s book has nevertheless become a literary cause célèbre, with a number of legal experts, including one from The New York Times, seeking to overturn the judge’s decision. The argument is that the Colting text is “transformative”: that instead of being a mere rip-off, it adds something original and substantive to Mr. Salinger’s version. This is the same principle Alice Randall appealed to in 2001 when she fought the estate of Margaret Mitchell over her right to publish “The Wind Done Gone,” her parody of “Gone With the Wind,” told from the point of view of Scarlett’s half-sister, a slave. The case was eventually settled when Ms. Randall’s publisher agreed to make a donation to Morehouse College, in Ms. Mitchell’s hometown, Atlanta.

Something similar happened with “Lo’s Diary,” by Pia Pera, which retells Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” from Lo’s point of view and argues, incidentally, that Humbert did not kill Quilty. Dmitri Nabokov, the author’s son and a zealous protector of his father’s legacy, initially objected but then came around for a percentage of the royalties, which he donated to PEN, the writers’ group...

Luckily, “Jane Eyre” was in the public domain, as was “Hamlet” when John Updike wrote “Gertrude and Claudius,” a prequel that re-imagines the “Hamlet story” from the point of view of the guilty couple and explains at last why Gertrude and Claudius got together in the first place: he was master of some sweaty sexual techniques apparently unknown to his brother.

Books that are still in copyright are a more complicated challenge for the would-be writer of prequels and sequels. This is partly because a lot of money is sometimes at stake. The Mitchell estate was so fussy about protecting “Gone With the Wind” because the franchise is a gold mine. Alexandra Ripley’s “Scarlett,” an authorized sequel, was a huge best seller in 1991, even though the critics sniffed at it. Living authors, moreover, are understandably attached to their characters and creations and may not want to think of them as demented, say, or having problems with bladder control. Where do you draw the line between critique or parody and outright exploitation?"

Podcast [3 min. 44 sec.]: Google Deal With Publishers Raises Privacy Concerns; NPR, 8/13/09

Podcast [3 min. 44 sec.] via NPR; Google Deal With Publishers Raises Privacy Concerns:

"Novelist Jonathan Lethem says Google should be "congratulated" for its effort. Lethem adds, "This is the moment to take a look and say, 'Why isn't it as private as the world we're being asked to leave behind, the world of physical books?' "

Lethem wonders whether future readers will have the same kind of relationship with books that he had. "When I was on this very private, very eccentric, intense journey as a younger person, it was crucial that it be a solitary practice," he says. But if future readers have reason to think they're leaving a digital trail, he adds, it might deprive the reading experience of its intimacy.

Lethem is one of several authors — including Michael Chabon and Cory Doctorow — who have signed on to a campaign to pressure Google Books to offer greater privacy guarantees for its readers. The effort was organized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"They know which books you search for," says Cindy Cohn, legal director for the foundation. "They know which books you browse through; they know how long you spend on each page."

It's the same kind of information that's produced by someone surfing the Web. But Cohn believes books should enjoy greater privacy.

The EFF and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California want Google to keep reader data for less time than normal Web searches. Ideally, they say, the data should be deleted after a month. "

More Seek Privacy from Google Book Search Settlement; Electronic Frontier Foundation, 8/14/09

Richard Esguerra via Electronic Frontier Foundation; More Seek Privacy from Google Book Search Settlement:

"Copyright scholar Pam Samuelson recently investigated the scope of the settlement in an editorial titled "The Audacity of the Google Book Search Settlement," noting that "...Google has negotiated a settlement agreement designed to give it a compulsory license to all books in copyright throughout the world forever."

The massive potential reach of Google's service makes the company's relative silence on privacy all the more problematic. A New York Times editorial praises the potential of more equitable, complete access to the world's knowledge, but cautions against the immense power that Google will then have:

"Google could collect data on what books people read and create a dossier of their political views and other information. Google should generally do a better job of showing how it will respect privacy, and [Google Book Search] is no exception."

Libraries are keenly familiar with the fact that intellectual freedom depends on the ability to read books privately -- there is a long-standing tradition of libraries upholding the privacy of patrons and defending against invasive requests for reading histories. The American Library Association recently participated in a panel discussion of the Google Book Search Settlement and expressed concerns about the chilling effects proliferated by a lack of privacy protections:

"[Dr. Inouye, Director of the ALA Office for Information Technology Policy,] went on to say that inadequate privacy protections could also produce a chilling effect on intellectual freedom, as users are less likely to explore particular lines of inquiry if they feel uncomfortable with uncertain information gathering techniques employed by Google or the Book Rights Registry. As a contrast to the paltry user privacy protections in the settlement, Inouye noted the extensive sections outlining cumbersome security provisions inserted to make sure rightholders content is secure.""

The Audacity of the Google Book Search Settlement; Huffington Post, 8/10/09

Pamela Samuelson via Huffington Post; The Audacity of the Google Book Search Settlement:

"Sorry, Kindle. The Google Book Search settlement will be, if approved, the most significant book industry development in the modern era. Exploiting an opportunity made possible by lawsuits brought by a small number of plaintiffs on one narrow issue, Google has negotiated a settlement agreement designed to give it a compulsory license to all books in copyright throughout the world forever. This settlement will transform the future of the book industry and of public access to the cultural heritage of mankind embodied in books. How audacious is that? "

Friday, August 14, 2009

After University of Kansas Approves Open Access, SPARC Pushes for More; Library Journal, 8/13/09

Norman Oder via Library Journal; After University of Kansas Approves Open Access, SPARC Pushes for More:

"First public university in U.S. to adopt OA; will use KU Scholar Works:

In June, the University of Kansas, Lawrence, became the first public university in the United States to adopt an open access (OA) regarding scholarly research, and SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) is offering resources to encourage other universities to take the plunge.

Under the faculty-initiated policy, faculty members will send digital copies of their articles to KU ScholarWorks, created in 2005, which houses more than 4400 articles. Professors can seek a waiver via a process to developed by a Senate task force in the coming academic year...

“Granting the university the right to deposit a copy of scholarly journal articles in an open digital repository extends the reach of the scholarship, providing the widest possible audience and increasing its possible impact,” said Lorraine J. Haricombe, dean of libraries.

SPARC effortNoting that many faculty members and administrators remain unfamiliar with OA, SPARC now offers a suite of web-based tools concerning issues like copyright, journal sustainability, disciplinary differences, and author rights.

Publicly available tools include the SPARC guide to implementing a campus open-access policy; background on the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences policy (passed in February 2008), the first in which U.S. faculty voted unanimously for OA as a default; and videos from the SPARC-ACRL forum on the Harvard policy.

Also available by request are two documents based on previous OA campaigns: “Campus open-access policy ‘Choice Points’,” which concerns policy options and recommended steps; and “Responses to common misconceptions about campus open-access policies.”

A group of expert advisers is also available as a resource. “It has become increasingly clear to me that the many efforts on university campuses to draft, promote, and implement open-access policies can benefit from the experiences of others who have been through the process,” said Stuart Shieber, Director of Harvard’s Office of Scholarly Communication."

Textbook Publisher to Rent to College Students; New York Times, 8/14/09

Tamar Lewin via New York Times; Textbook Publisher to Rent to College Students:

"In the rapidly evolving college textbook market, one of the nation’s largest textbook publishers, Cengage Learning, announced Thursday that it would start renting books to students this year, at 40 percent to 70 percent of the sale price.

Students who choose Cengage’s rental option will get immediate access to the first chapter of the book electronically, in e-book format, and will have a choice of shipping options for the printed book. When the rental term — 60, 90 or 130 days — is over, students can either return the textbook or buy it...

Besides giving students a new option, rentals give both publishers and textbook authors a way to continue earning money from their books after the first sale, something they do not get from the sale of used textbooks.

Our authors will get royalties on second and third rentals, just as they would on a first sale,” said Ronald G. Dunn, president and chief executive of Cengage, formerly Thomson Learning. “There’s a tremendous amount of activity around rentals now, but we’re the first higher-education publisher to move in this direction.”"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sony Plans to Adopt Common Format for E-Books; New York Times, 8/13/09

Brad Stone via New York Times; Sony Plans to Adopt Common Format for E-Books:

"On Thursday, Sony Electronics, which sells e-book devices under the Reader brand, plans to announce that by the end of the year it will sell digital books only in the ePub format, an open standard created by a group including publishers like Random House and HarperCollins.

Sony will also scrap its proprietary anticopying software in favor of technology from the software maker Adobe that restricts how often e-books can be shared or copied.

After the change, books bought from Sony’s online store will be readable not just on its own device but on the growing constellation of other readers that support ePub...

“People need to remember, when they buy books that come with digital rights management, they don’t have the freedoms they normally would have with a book,” said Holmes Wilson, campaigns manger of the Free Software Foundation, which obtained the signatures of nearly 4,000 authors and tech pundits on a petition saying Amazon’s anticopying software was a “clear threat to the free exchange of ideas.”

Companies like Sony and Adobe do not want to abandon anticopying measures, fearing that piracy of books would run rampant. Rather, they want to push the e-book industry toward common standards to avoid a replay of Apple’s domination of the digital music business.

Early this decade, Apple sold music from its iTunes store that was protected by its own FairPlay software and could be played only on the iPod.

The result was what is known as “lock-in.” Apple built up extraordinary market power and leverage to dictate terms to the major music labels on matters like the price of digital songs. Then, as now, second-tier players banded together to promote the increased flexibility and choice that open standards gave to consumers."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Op-Ed: Is Google playing by the book?; Christian Science Monitor, 8/7/09

Op-Ed: Christian Science Monitor; Is Google playing by the book?:

The search giant is on its way to becoming the world's digital library, but a private monopoly raises questions.:

"The idea of digitizing the world's written record and making it freely available to everyone is exhilarating. The ability of a student in Alabama or Albania to have access to the contents of the world's libraries online at their fingertips, for example, is a powerful concept and just one of the ways a free and open Web can lift humanity.

But history shows that when a company – even one with talent and good intentions – acts like a monopoly, it is subject to abuses. Despite the potentially monumental effects of this settlement, it has had little public scrutiny. Yet it needs a rigorous examination.

If it stands, the agreement must include long-term safeguards that allow public access to the full collection at reasonable cost, maintain the rights of copyright holders, and ensure the necessary privacy of those who use the service."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

As Classrooms Go Digital, Textbooks Are History; New York Times, 8/8/09

Tamar Lewin via New York Times; As Classrooms Go Digital, Textbooks Are History:

"Textbooks have not gone the way of the scroll yet, but many educators say that it will not be long before they are replaced by digital versions — or supplanted altogether by lessons assembled from the wealth of free courseware, educational games, videos and projects on the Web.

“Kids are wired differently these days,” said Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La. “They’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose and extrapolate. And they think of knowledge as infinite.

“They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear and rote,” Dr. Abshire continued. “Teachers need digital resources to find those documents, those blogs, those wikis that get them beyond the plain vanilla curriculum in the textbooks...

But the digital future is not quite on the horizon in most classrooms. For one thing, there is still a large digital divide. Not every student has access to a computer, a Kindle electronic reader device or a smartphone, and few districts are wealthy enough to provide them. So digital textbooks could widen the gap between rich and poor.

“A large portion of our kids don’t have computers at home, and it would be way too costly to print out the digital textbooks,” said Tim Ward, assistant superintendent for instruction in California’s 24,000-student Chaffey Joint Union High School District, where almost half the students are from low-income families.

Many educators expect that digital textbooks and online courses will start small, perhaps for those who want to study a subject they cannot fit into their school schedule or for those who need a few more credits to graduate...

The move to open-source materials is well under way in higher education — and may be accelerated by President Obama’s proposal to invest in creating free online courses as part of his push to improve community colleges.

Around the world, hundreds of universities, including M.I.T. and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia, now use and share open-source courses. Connexions, a Rice University nonprofit organization devoted to open-source learning, submitted an algebra text to California. ”