Friday, September 18, 2009

Google Books, Congress, and Orphan Works; Center for Democracy & Technology, 9/17/09

David Sohn, Center for Democracy & Technology; Google Books, Congress, and Orphan Works:

"As a practical matter, it is far from clear when or if Congress would be able to produce a legislative solution to the latter problem. The politics of copyright are notoriously difficult. One response to that reality is to say, fine — if Congress can’t agree on what action to take, that just means there isn’t enough consensus on an appropriate path through the legal thicket, so Google should not be allowed to proceed. But that approach doesn’t much serve copyright law’s underlying purpose of promoting the creation and dissemination of knowledge. Allowing the online equivalent of a comprehensive library could offer tremendous benefits both to the reading public and to the many rightsholders who would welcome the chance for their out-of-print works to be rediscovered (and to generate some new revenue to boot.) The proposed settlement, while not perfect, offers a way to achieve that broadly beneficial goal. And if the settlement were to prompt Congress to roll up its sleeves and develop a forward-thinking policy approach, so much the better.

In short, yes, Congress should have the last word. But in the meantime, the Google Books settlement offers the chance to expand public access and increase exposure for many millions of out-of-print works in ways that generally should benefit readers and authors alike. That’s why CDT supports the settlement, albeit with the significant caveat that reader privacy concerns must be addressed. CDT detailed those privacy considerations in a report earlier this summer and in an amicus brief filed with the court in early September; links to those documents can be found here."

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