Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Google Book Settlement: What's in it for writers?

As part of my work as co-chair of the Book Division of the National Writers Union, I’m speaking on behalf of the NWU at events on both coasts next week, in exceptionally distinguished legal and scholarly company:

The Google Book Settlement:
What’s in it for writers?

Free public informational events with writers’ groups and legal experts:

New York City: Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 2 p.m.
256 W. 38th St., 12th floor (NWU/UAW meeting space)

Berkeley, CA: Friday, January 22, 2010, 7 p.m.
2070 Allston Way, 1 block from Berkeley BART (UAW local 2865, U.C. academic student employees union)

Calling all writers! If you’ve ever written anything that might be in the collection of a major library — including authored books, anthology collections, essays and articles — you might be affected by the latest proposed settlement of a lawsuit on copyright infringement involving the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and Google.

The National Writers Union is organizing two public meetings, in New York and in the San Francisco Bay Area, to update local writers on the pros and cons of the revised settlement pending before the courts.

The first of these is in New York City (Wednesday, January 20, 2010, 2 p.m., at 256 W. 38th St., 12th floor) and is a collaborative effort of the NWU, the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), three writers groups that oppose the settlement.

In addition to representatives of the three writers’ groups, the confirmed New York speakers list includes New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann (creator of , the most comprehensive Web site about the proposed settlement); attorney, author and literary agent Lynn Chu, who served as co-counsel for the NWU, ASJA, and 58 individual authors who objected to the first settlement proposal; and Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, the proponents of the settlement.

The Bay Area forum is in Berkeley, CA (Friday, January 22, 2010, 7 p.m., at 2070 Allston Way). Along with Edward Hasbrouck, co-chair of the Book Division of the NWU, confirmed speakers include U.C. Berkeley law school professor Pamela Samuelson, the initiator of a joint letter to the court by academic authors who object to the settlement, and attorney Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who represents authors who object to the proposed settlement on privacy grounds. [Some of you may have heard Pam Samuelson and me together earlier on All Things Considered and at more length on this program KQED’s “Forum with Michael Krasny”.]

“All writers need to be fully aware of the settlement’s provisions in order to make informed decisions,” said NWU President Larry Goldbetter. “Writers have a second chance, regardless of whether you received official notice or what you did about the original settlement proposal. This is especially important with the new ‘opt-out’ date set for January 28.”

While some people may think they aren’t affected because they don’t write “books”, the definition of “book” in the proposed settlement also includes offprints of articles, articles in irregular serials, monographs, chapbooks, ephemera, unpublished dissertations, etc. In my own case, Google classified a 20-page article, word processed and photocopied on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper, with a staple in the corner, as a “book”.

Both meetings are open to the public. We especially welcome, lapsed, returning, and of course new and prospective NWU members. (The NWU is among my top recommended resources for both established and aspiring travel writers.)

Both programs will be recorded, and there are plans to make them available as audio podcasts as well as hold a conference call for at-large and other NWU members who still have questions. (A live webcast of the New York City event may be possible, but is not yet confirmed.)

We’ve assembled all-star panels of legal experts on both coasts to advise writers, but that took time and there’s little time left to spread the word. Please forward this announcement , link to it from your blog, talk to fellow writers about, and put up notices in Bay Area and New York bookstores, cafes, campuses, and other writers’ hangouts.

[Follow-up: Text of my opening comments and audio and video of both the New York and Berkeley events.]

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 13 January 2010, 20:12 ( 8:12 PM)

If you haven't seen it, I recommend this review of the Lanier book. It might even be worthwhile interviewing Lanier.

The Madness of Crowds and an Internet Delusion

By JOHN TIERNEY, New York Times, 1-11-10

"When does the wisdom of crowds give way to the meanness of mobs?

"In the 1990s, Jaron Lanier was one of the digital pioneers hailing the wonderful possibilities that would be realized once the Internet allowed musicians, artists, scientists and engineers around the world to instantly
share their work. Now, like a lot of us, he is having second thoughts."

(The end)
"In theory, public officials could deter piracy by stiffening the penalties, but they're aware of another crucial distinction between online piracy and house burglary: There are a lot more homeowners than burglars, but there are a lot more consumers of digital content than producers of it.

"The result is a problem a bit like trying to stop a mob of looters. When the majority of people feel entitled to someone's property, who's going to stand in their way?"


Posted by: Louise Lacey, 13 January 2010, 22:12 (10:12 PM)

I opted out of this "settlement" and 1. had to find where to opt out (no one told me it's up to You to tell google NO) and 2. I received no confirmation from google AT ALL that I was opted out, after I filled in the online form. Both should tell you something about google.

Posted by: Ben Ohmart, 18 January 2010, 20:33 ( 8:33 PM)
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