Thursday, September 3, 2009

Deadline looms as opposition mounts to Google Book Settlement; National Post, 9/3/09

Mark Medley via National Post; Deadline looms as opposition mounts to Google Book Settlement:

Canadian authors debate whether to opt out

"Google's mission statement is at once both ambitious and admirable: "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Keeping with that spirit, in 2004 the Internet giant launched what became known as Google Book Search -- "an enhanced card catalogue of the world's books" -- and began digitizing the collections of several libraries and universities, including Oxford and Harvard. It would allow users to search through a massive online library and view sections of the books, ranging from snippets to the entire text. More than seven million titles -- perhaps as many as 10 million -- have been scanned thus far. There was just one problem: Google didn't receive permission from the books' copyright holders. A class-action lawsuit and years of negotiations ensued, leading to the landmark Google Book Settlement reached last October. Authors, publishers, agents and lawyers have spent much of the last year analyzing the complex agreement and trying to figure out what it means for them. It's a quest to disseminate knowledge or a deal with the devil, depending on which side you're on. But one thing is clear: Opposition is growing more vocal in advance of tomorrow's deadline to opt out of the controversial agreement.

"If a complete stranger came and took your car without permission and took it for a drive, what would you call that?" asks Katherine Gordon, one of several Canadian authors leading the charge against the settlement. "It would be theft. So how is this any different?"

On Tuesday, Gordon and several other Canadian authors launched an online campaign opposing the settlement, taking Google to task for "blatant disregard for Canadian legal copyright ownership" and accusing them of keeping authors in the dark, leaving "millions of authors ... unaware their rights will be seriously compromised after Friday.""

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