Monday, 7 September 2009

KQED's "Forum" on Google Books settlement Tuesday

I’ll be representing the National Writers Union on KQED’s Forum with Michael Krasny tomorrow morning, Tuesday, 8 September 2009, from 9-10 a.m. PDT (noon-1 p.m. EDT; 16:00-17:00 UTC/GMT) to discuss the Google Books copyright infringement lawsuit and writers’ rights. The NWU will be filing a friend of the court brief with the court Tuesday morning, objecting to the proposed settlement. We’ll be joined by, among others, Prof. Pamela Samuelson of the U.C. Berkeley Law and Information Schools, the lead author of an exellent joint letter by academic authors objecting to the Google Books settlement, and who was also interviewed on the same segment of “All Things Considered” as me last week. KQED is at 88.5 FM in San Francisco; outside the Bay Area, there’s live streaming. You can phone in, or submit your questions and comments by e-mail.

Of course I’d rather be on “Forum” talking about travel, or about the Practical Nomad books (I was on the show with Maureen Wheeler of Lonely Planet in August 2001), than about the rights to my books — which by right ought to be mine without further “formalities”, to use the language of the Berne Convention international copyright treaty. Last week millions of authors around the world had to take time out from their writing to decide whether to opt out of the proposed settlement, or (by default, if they did nothing) to opt in. It gave me an odd sense of global solidarity to read new blog posts and op-ed pieces every day from writers everywhere confronted with the same decision, including this one from English novelist Nick Harkaway (who eventually decided to opt out) about how “there are thousands of really good books which are not getting written because” writers were having to worry about what to do about the Google Books settlement, instead of writing.

[Update: Streaming or downloadable podcast archives now available. I think my most important comments came toward the end: “The National Writers Union, as part of our ongoing lobbying work to get the ‘orphan works’ problem addressed, has specifically raised the suggestion that if we are going to — and I think we should — fund the creation of a national digital library, the Library of Congress is a much more appropriate repository than a private company like Google. Writers want to see their works out there. Whether it’s academic writers like Professor Samuelson, who may not be interested in money, or the National Writers Union members who who are struggling to make a living from our writing, we want our works to be available. But when we create a public facility, like a digital library, we don’t normally say, ‘We want a public facility so we’re going to conscript construction workers to build it without pay.’ The settlement would build this digital library, for Google’s profit, at the expense of a massive takeaway of the fruits of lifetimes of writers’ labors.”]

Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 7 September 2009, 07:25 ( 7:25 AM)

Google is doing a great service to all authors with its book scanning project. I wish in my business some company would come in and offer to make it easier for me sell my wares.

Google is not providing your books for free, they are doing for books what they have done for the past decade in indexing the web. Why do we want much of our written history not easily searchable?

Posted by: Anonymous, 10 September 2009, 10:23 (10:23 AM)

Google making books searchable isn't the problem. Google hosting the full texts is. The Web is free; books aren't. Also Google doesn't just copy entire Web sites and host them with their own ads, they just let you search and go to the original source. With books, they can't do that since the book isn't online and isn't free.

Posted by: Bill Ward, 10 September 2009, 14:18 ( 2:18 PM)
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