Thursday, 20 August 2009

Google Books and writers' rights

Writers and publishers (including self-publishers) of “books” including out-of-print-books (and actually including many magazines, journals, chapbooks, ephemera, etc.), have until 4 September 2009 to decide what to do about a proposed settlement of multiple class-action copyright-infringment lawsuits brought against Google for scanning and distributing electronic copies of books without the permisison of the copyright holders.

For writers, the key thing to understand is that doing nothing about the proposed settlement is almost certainly the worst choice you can make. If you do nothing, and the proposed settlement is approved, you will give up some of your rights (some of them irrevocably), but you will get no money from the settlement.

Of necessity — not being able to afford a lawyer — I’ve spent many hours trying to understand the complications of the proposed settlement and its implications for writers. At the request of several people with whom I’ve shared some of my notes and analysis, I’m posting an article summarizing my personal take on the proposed settlement, as well as some links to other resources that I’ve found useful in trying to figure out what to do:

[Note: I’m a member of the National Writers Union, and was recently elected Co-Chair of the Book Division of the NWU. I encourage writers seeking more information about the Google Books lawsuit and proposed settlement, or Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick (the most important thing about which is that whatever the Supreme Court rules, the case is unlikely to be over), or interested in working with other writers and allies “to defend the rights and improve the economic and working conditions of all writers,” to join the NWU. Nothing I’ve posted here, however — except of course the NWU’s official statements which I’ve linked to — should be taken as representing the views of the NWU, the NWU Book Division, or anyone except myself or the authors of the specific linked articles. Finally, if you are interested specifically in travel writing — including the economics of trying to make a living from travel writing (my first advice: Don’t quit your day job!) — I’ve recently posted some travel writing resources I recommend. I’m continuing to update the link directory above as new items of interest cross my desk.]

[Update: Contrary to some erroneous reports (including on NPR’s “All Things Considered”), the opt-out deadline was not changed and was still Friday, 4 September 2009. The “second chance’ opt-out deadline for the revised settlement proposal is Thursday, 28 January 2010.]

[Further update: Revised proposal for a settlement of the Google Books copyright infringement lawsuit (13 November 2009)]

[Further update: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about about the revised Google Book Search copyright infringement settlement proposal, from the National Writers Union]

Link | Posted by Edward on Thursday, 20 August 2009, 15:25 ( 3:25 PM)
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