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"Authors Guild" Skims Half of Google Book-Rights Settlement 271

Posted by timothy
from the diddly-over-squat dept.
Miracle Jones writes "A recent memo from the 'Author's Guild' to the writers and publishers that it supposedly represents shows that only $45 million of the $125 million dollar settlement with Google will be paid to writers, and that the most a writer can receive for a book is $300. Many people speculate that Google's monopoly over all of out-of-copyright works will result in a brutal monopoly that will hurt both writers and readers, and that the 'Author's Guild' had no right to make the deal in the first place. How will it all shake down? Should writers be paid at all for their work? Will Google be any good at the publishing racket?"
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"Authors Guild" Skims Half of Google Book-Rights Settlement

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @12:58PM (#27052729)
    This summary is laughably inaccurate, biased, and sensational. This agreement doesn't give Google anything even *like* a "monopoly over all out-of-copyright works." If a work is out-of-copyright Google (or anyone else for that matter) is free to do whatever the hell they want with it. The issue of this case was the right to provide SEARCH RESULTS for COPYRIGHTED books. The Authors Guild was suing Google because they said Google didn't have the right to provide full text search results for copyrighted texts (even if the results page of the search only displayed a couple of sentences from the text). Rather than fight out what was probably a legitimate fair-use case, Google simple paid them off. This case has nothing to do with whether a writer should be "paid for their work." These are just SEARCH RESULTS we're talking about, not full texts.

    Full details (minus the blogspam and reactionary hyperbole) are available here [google.com].

    • by nicolas.kassis (875270) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:00PM (#27052763)

      This summary is laughably inaccurate, biased, and sensational. This agreement doesn't give Google anything even *like* a "monopoly over all out-of-copyright works." If a work is out-of-copyright Google (or anyone else for that matter) is free to do whatever the hell they want with it.

      EXACTLY, if you don't want to use Google for those just go to Project Gutenberg or pay 8 bucks at your local book store for something that cost them 1 buck to make.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Right, 8 bucks to buy and 1 buck to make. Then calculate the cost of marketing it (even just to the bookstores-- bookstores don't stock EVERY book that comes out), transporting it, salaries for the folks involved, enough profit to have the $1 left over to start again, and of course, a little just plain profit (if for nothing else than to survive lean periods).

        Wherever you work, whether it's McDonalds or as a game programmer, it's understood that the purchase price is pretty far above the cost of the raw ma

        • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:27PM (#27054939) Homepage Journal
          "Why do you choose to state it in a way that makes it look like publishers are greedy?" Have you bought any college text books? Some publishers ARE greedy. Not all, of course, but some most definitely are. http://www.baen.com/library/ [baen.com]
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by bzipitidoo (647217)

            Let's put it another way. Cost of a paperback in 1980 was about $2. We've had about 3.5% annual inflation from 1980 to 2008, so the cost of a paperback today should be just under $5. Instead, they're pushing $10.

            If that's not enough, the costs of typesetting, printing, managing inventories, and such have all dropped dramatically thanks to technological advances. And there's room for a whole lot more savings, with electronic paper and readers steadily improving, and the Internet's potential for reducin

      • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:39PM (#27054239) Homepage

        pay 8 bucks at your local book store for something that cost them 1 buck to make.

        Hey, it only cost them $0.21 for the paper and ink to make that book. It cost them another $0.33 for packaging, storage and shipping. Then it cost them $0.64 for promotion (free copies, advertising, signing parties). If you bought the book in a shopping mall, they're probably paying $1.50 per book in rent for the mall space (say $20K per month rent vs 40K books in the store that stay there for 3 months each), and another $1.50 per book for the cheerful staff who ignore you until you shout at them that you're ready to pay now, please! Corporate management, insurance, accounting, debt service, shareholder profits, etc. account for another $3.80, and then the author gets their 0.02 per copy royalty.

        Who could possibly want to disturb such a vibrant ecosystem by delivering content directly from the author to their readers efficiently?

        • by m.ducharme (1082683) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:43PM (#27055177)

          people who don't shop at corporate bookstores, and restrict their business to small bookstores that offer much better service, friendlier environments, usually more eclectic selection, etc. I like my bookstore, and I shop there instead of going online because of the value added by the owners.

        • by kramulous (977841) * on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:23PM (#27055755)

          I costs a little more per book than that.

          My old man writes maths textbooks and then sells them to high schools as they closely match the curriculum.

          He used to use a publisher (for the first book) but ditched them because after selling 35 000, he received about AU$6000. It wasn't worth the time invested in creating the material.

          Then he used an Australian book binder and it would cost around AU$6 per book to produce, but given that he would sell them for AU$29.95 things were much better. Problem was that the book binder was not consistent with either timing on delivery or quality (still leagues ahead of the publisher). Mail outs to promote the material would only cost AU$0.60 per school.

          He now out sources to Singapore. The books arrive on time and each copy is in identical condition. That costs AU$4.20 per book (soft-cover, colour).

          He is now looking into buying a book-binder himself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by hesaigo999ca (786966)

          Books, Movies and Music, are 3 of the worst consumers rip-offs.
          Who decides the book is worth this much, or that song is worth this much...or that movie...
          Why is it that I go into Walmart and buy a movie for 5$ and everyone still makes money....
          which means the blockbuster selling their same copy for 20$ is making a HUGE profit.

          I know there is a point system for figuring out what you sell a piece of clothing or shoes etc...
          But that is because, it uses materials,...takes alot of space and even weighs alot more

          • Actually, the economics of bookstores is not what you suggest.

            Bookstores actually have one of the lowest markups in the industry (they buy books at 60% of what they sell them at-- most other businesses are about 50%). Let me explain how this works when I run a micro-run (100 copies) of my book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1439223084/ [amazon.com]) by sales channels.

            The micro-run of 100 copies costs me $3.84 per book including shipping to get it to me. I assume the printer makes a little bit there too. So suppose

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by JoeMerchant (803320)
            Your clothing analogy is right on. They've got it, you want it, and what it cost to make has almost nothing to do with the price. When a pair of pants can go on a rack for $150, and eventually get marked down to $10, there's obviously something screwy going on.

            I'm not saying I want to live in a Wal-Mart world, but it would be really cool if every object you purchased had a true value-stream accounting available for it, so you could see that the $3 Orange Juice in the grocery store is actually giving $
    • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:02PM (#27052791)

      ...or would that require responsible editing?

    • by eln (21727) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:14PM (#27052951) Homepage

      That makes a lot more sense. I was wondering why Google or anyone else would pay a red cent to anyone for out of copyright works, especially electronic copies. By definition, a work that is out of copyright isn't owned by anyone, and anyone can do whatever they please with it.

      For a site that posts as many stories about copyright as Slashdot does, you'd think the editors would have at least a basic understanding of it. Of course, since article selection around here seems to involve a monkey and a dart board, I guess we shouldn't be surprised by articles like this.

      • Just for clarity, what is the supposed position of the monkey relative to the darts and the dartboard and can this arrangement constitute animal cruelty?

    • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:56PM (#27053617)

      The Google case *does* relate to full texts, *and* to whether an author should be paid the price of their choosing for their work.

      Basically, Google was able to settle a class action lawsuit in such a way that it was given rights to works from all members of a class (including the right to sell access to full texts for out of print books). So basically, unless you've taken action to exclude yourself from the class's deal, Google can sell almost anything you've ever written that is not currently in print, without any permission from you or your agents.

      Google has used brilliant legal tricks and some paltry millions to more or less turn the copyright system from opt-in to opt-out when it comes to selling on Google Books.

      I personally suspect that this will be a net win for everyone involved, Google, readers, and writers. But it would be wrong to downplay the importance of this case, and the potential impact of it's settlement.

      • Basically, Google was able to settle a class action lawsuit in such a way that it was given rights to works from all members of a class (including the right to sell access to full texts for out of print books).

        Out of print or out of copyright? There is a very important difference. I thought Google Books was only giving full text for books that are out of copyright, and therefore they can do whatever they want and there is no consent required. I know the legal case was regarding google having a full-text searchable index, but they were only providing "previews" to end users. This is from Google Book's about page:

        If the book is out of copyright, or the publisher has given us permission, you'll be able to see a preview of the book, and in some cases the entire text. If it's in the public domain, you're free to download a PDF copy. Learn more about the different views.

        Are you saying the "if the author has given us permission" part is covered by the settlement for full-t

        • by roggg (1184871) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:30PM (#27054107)

          Out of print or out of copyright? There is a very important difference. I thought Google Books was only giving full text for books that are out of copyright, and therefore they can do whatever they want and there is no consent required.

          I only skimmed the actual agreement, but it looks like Google is claiming the right by default to sell any book that they determine is not "commercially available" (ie out of print), and to pay royalties on that book. The rights holder as the right to opt out of that at any time, but by default Google is claiming that the settlement gives them that right.

          IANAL, but I don't see how a settlement of a class action suit AGAINST Google can actually transfer rights to them from class members.

          • IANAL, but I don't see how a settlement of a class action suit AGAINST Google can actually transfer rights to them from class members.

            Yeah, that would be like a class-action suit against for a car defect where part of the settlement entitles the car manufacturer to the class members' first-born.

          • by rossifer (581396) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:41PM (#27054277) Journal

            That's the result of a settlement with the class. As soon as the judge certifies the settlement, it applies to both parties, including the class, and can bind members of the class from subsequent litigation.

            The judge's certification is supposed to verify that the various obligations of the settlement are in the fiduciary interest of the class and the plaintiff, to prevent the class lawyers from writing a settlement which only benefits themselves, for instance.

            So the question here is: is the settlement in the fiduciary interest of the class members or did the judge make an error in certifying the settlement?

        • by rossifer (581396)

          Yup. Google is putting up works that are in copyright and covered by the settlement (which is an enormous corpus of in-copyright works).

          So far, when I've ended up on a Google books search result, the book has usually been in stock at Amazon and bn.com (with helpful links to those pages on the right side of the page). Now, these in-copyright search results are compromised, in that Google pulls random pages from the viewer so that you can't just read the whole thing. Normally there's at least one page on e

          • by rossifer (581396)
            There's a 1900 edition of Sherlock Holmes that seems to allow reading from beginning to end. Hmmm...
            • by EllisDees (268037)

              All works created in 1900 are now in the public domain.

              • by pjt33 (739471)

                Are you certain? My understanding is that the time period which must expire for works to enter the public domain begins not when the work is created but when the creator dies. (IANAA).

            • by Chyeld (713439)

              Google has always let you peruse the complete work when they believe (either by expiration of copyright or by consent of the rights holder) they are able to. The rest have always been contrained to just the search phrase and a 'random' selection of pages often chosen by the publisher.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        "Rights" in the sense of "the rights to allow people to search these texts and see a small slice where their search hit" *NOT* "rights to reprint them or republish them without the original copyright holder's consent." That's a pretty big distinction--one which the summary completely ignored in favor of the more sensational "Google is out to steal your copyrighted books!!" approach.

        I would also add that Google (and pretty much every search engine) already does the EXACT same thing with websites, and I don

    • by Quothz (683368)

      This summary is laughably inaccurate, biased, and sensational.

      I hate to agree with this, but I do. I'd like to add that the article is equally inaccurate, biased, and sensational, and was submitted to /. by the article's author.

      The /. editor should've seen Big Red Flags all over this one. Even if he is completely oblivious to the story, the glaring math error, the concept of a public-domain monopoly, and... and all the stupid should have been warning signs.

      Thank you for the link to the agreement itself. The blog post linked in the summary links in turn, and apparant

    • by severoon (536737)

      -checking to see if I'm on slashdot- Yup...it's the right domain name...

      This f1r5t ps0t!!!11!!111 is spot-on. It's informative, useful, well-written and well thought-out. It surprised me so much I peed a little.

    • by orielbean (936271)

      This is a good response, just beware that the concept of Fair Use, while easy for us to understand, is a very difficult one that is nowhere near clear enough at the court level. Many different conflicting cases are out there that do not provide a bright-line instance of what is fair use and what is not fair use.

  • This 'Author's Guild' makes a lot of noise like they represent the majority of writers. But do they really? Do they have any "official" standing with anyone? Any "big names" on board with them? Or are they just a bunch of hot air with an important sounding name? Who are they really?
    • by faloi (738831)
      They certainly don't represent the majority, or as near as I can tell any, of the writers I commonly read. My best guess is that they're making a lot of noise trying to scare writers into thinking their guild is necessary to protect them from the eeebil copyright infringement, all the in hopes of annual dues. That is only a guess, though.
    • The publishing industry worked very well when the only way you could self-publish was with expensive long offset runs. Nowadays, print on demand is making self-publishing much easier and more affordable. Add to it affordable typesetting/design software, and you have a chance to really crack these cartels.

      I recently published my book via a POD publisher (Booksurge). You can see it at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1439223084/ [amazon.com]

      I also do micro-runs for wholesale (100 copies of the book at a time).

      Interestingly.... I did the entire book design, including the cover, in LaTeX. It came out great. I am extremely happy with the quality that the free software in this area is able to provide. The only few issues are design mistakes I made, and not software limitations (the barcode should be placed differently on the back, etc).

      My most recent journal entry includes a follow-up post on advice for people designing books using LaTeX.

  • by amclay (1356377) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:02PM (#27052793) Homepage Journal
    I don't even see how this is possible. If a work isn't copyright, then anyone can publish it without paying royalties. I'm not sure how a company can make a business off of that alone, or how that can be construed to be a "monopoly." This is simply put, an article solely put out there to rile readers.
    • by Dolohov (114209)

      I was just about to ask that. That's like saying that Penguin Classics has a monopoly on out-of-copyright books because nobody else bothers to print them.

    • This is simply put, an article solely put out there to rile readers.

      Troll articles? In my slashdot?

      Surely you're kidding!

      The entire point of most slashdot articles is that they are trolls -- that is, they are intended to evoke a response amond the readers. I'd say very few of them are malicious, but inflammatory or inaccurate summaries/"articles" are part and parcel of slashdot... and most news-aggregator discussion sites.

    • by magisterx (865326)
      Agreed. It is impossible to have an out of copyright monopoly (at least short of having and directly controlling the only copies in existence). Project Gutenberg illustrates this nicely.
      • by einhverfr (238914)

        Project Gutenberg has a monopoly on electronic publication of many of these texts because nobody can compete with them!

        [/sarcasm]

    • by roggg (1184871)
      TFA is pretty vague and somewhat inaccurate. This is about out of print books, not out of copyright. Well, it's about both really, but there's no contention around books in the public domain.
  • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:11PM (#27052917)
    I'm glad we had libraries before copyright lawyers. If someone suggested the concept of a library today as a new idea, it would be shot down instantly.
    • I'm glad we had libraries before copyright lawyers.

      Did we? I'd always thought that public, lending libraries were a 19th-century sort of thing [wikipedia.org]. Wikipedia reckons that copyright was introduced in the 18th century [wikipedia.org].

    • by bdwoolman (561635) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:27PM (#27054947) Homepage

      Right you are. Copyright holders in the 19th century were indeed very much against the library movement and tried to stop it. But the doctrine of first sale trumped their objections, just as it did when the movie studios objected to video rental. Copy machines in libraries also produced an uproar, but fair use doctrine keeps them cranking.

      Digital distribution was a game changer, since digital media is usually copied and not merely rented, lent or sold when it is distributed. (And the copyright holder always strongly retains the right of duplication.) Many copyright holders, especially corporate ones, have used main force to attempt to hold onto that prerogative, but the slow demise of DRM demonstrates that they have conceded that they need to lower their margin and make profits from volume, while accepting that customers will do some duplication -- perhaps even to the right holder's benefit as a form of PR -- but diluting their perceived rights nonetheless. In the end I think that companies that find a way to benefit from viral distribution will win out.

  • Fair? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:11PM (#27052919) Homepage Journal

    The writers should get whatever their contract with the guilds says, not a penny more.
    Hey, you get into bed with a dying business model, the people running will eventually go after you,.

    And yes, I think Google should have fought it tooth and nail, because they have the money to do so.
    Plus the long term benefits of having this finally hashed out in courts would be a money and time saver later on.
    Bu not fighting it that are costing themselves a lot of money.

    • "The Guild" is *not* a widely accepted representative of mainstream authors. This whole business is just an attempt by "The Guild" to convince people that they are relevent. But they are really no different than if me and a few friends got together and built a Web page to solicit "dues" from writers. It's basically a business.
      • Whether you agree with them or not, The Authors Guild is the name of the organization. Putting it in quotation marks to show your disdain is as silly as the recently developed habit of Republicans calling their main opposition the "Democrat Party."

        As a member of SFWA, which has some close ties with TAG, I'm not a fan at all of how TAG seems to be trying to turn itself into the RIAA/MPAA of the written word. I'd like to see us either sever our ties with them, or lobby hard to get them to adopt more reasona

        • Re:Fair? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dogtanian (588974) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:12PM (#27054735) Homepage

          Whether you agree with them or not, The Authors Guild is the name of the organization. Putting it in quotation marks to show your disdain is as silly

          The name carries connotations that the OP disagrees with; indeed that was the whole point of his post.

          You can argue that it's a name and nothing more, but if- as some argue- a particular name is intentionally chosen to imply certain things about an organisation that the writer disagrees with, then using the self-appointed name without quotes is effectively endorsing it.

          If I set up a self-appointed organisation called "The Government of Western Europe" and no-one was allowed to put it in quotes (let alone prefix it with "so-called") or even comment on it, then every time they said it, it would effectively legitimise my choice of misleading name.

          Bottom line, the quotes in the OP's case implied that "that's someone else's self-appointed name masquerading as a description, and nothing more". If he disagrees that they're the "guild" they represent themselves as, it's quite reasonable that he doesn't want to go along with it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by saiha (665337)

          Actually it seems one of the rare cases when it is correct to use quotation marks to emphasize something you disagree with.

          Authors Guild implies its a guild of every type of author (book, movie, law, computer program). This would be different than something like the Screen Actor's Guild.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        I sit correct. Thanks for the clarification.

    • Not this author... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tinrobot (314936) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @04:02PM (#27055455)

      I've been a published author of computer books for almost 15 years, writing 12 books for several major publishers. All of my books have been scanned and put online by Google without my consent.

      The first I heard of the Author's Guild was when Google sent me a notice about this matter and offered me practically nothing for the 'right' to steal my books. I do not have a contract with the Authors Guild and did not give the Author's Guild any right to speak for me. I'd imagine most authors didn't authorize them, either.

      • Quick question (Score:3, Insightful)

        by einhverfr (238914)

        If I walk into a bookstore every day for a month and spend 30 minutes reading your books, is that stealing?

        How is this fundamentally different from what Google is doing here?

        As an author as well, my biggest frustration with Google Books is how long it takes them to get the books up. It might be copyright infringement in the letter of the law, but it is no more stealing than if I borrow your book from a friend to read it.

  • "Should writers be paid at all for their work?"

    Some rhetorical questions should not even be asked. This is one of them.
    • Re:Rhetoric (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dolohov (114209) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:40PM (#27053309)

      And yet it really does get to the heart of the matter. What IS copyright, anyway? It started off as a bargain between the people of our country and the writers and artists who entertain, enlighten, and educate us: Create these works, and we'll respect your control over them (as a way to earn a living from your work) for some number of years, but ultimately they belong and will revert to all of humanity.

      As a society we've been more than generous over the last century. No creative artist living today will EVER have to lose control over his work by simply living too long. (Ill-advised contracts notwithstanding) That is a tremendous gift, and as a result we as a society have allowed vast amounts of our culture to remain under the control of individuals and corporations, for the first time in human history. Think about that. For thousands of years, if you heard a story that you liked, or a song you liked, you would have been perfectly free to retell (or rewrite!) it as you saw fit, or sing it to a friend or audience, altering as you alone saw fit. We as a society have largely given up these rights, and are giving them up for longer and longer. In exchange we think we're getting better creative works (even though almost any writer will freely admit that he's no Shakespeare, who didn't enjoy nearly the control that we give today's writers)

      And so it seems to me that with society giving up more and more rights to authors, and authors doing their best to make their works less accessible and less useful to society, it's not such a bad thing to start re-asking fundamental questions like "Should writers be paid at all for their work?"

      • Kudos for a very simple, concise description of the current situation.

        I'd personally like to see copyright forced into a structure more like patents. Patents must be registered to an individual. That person may assign rights to another person or company, but the patent is still his. Copyright should be associated with one or more living, breathing person(s). Corporate copyright ownership becomes a permanent monopoly, because "life plus N years" is meaningless in that context. A company is incapable o
      • by Loosifur (954968) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:13PM (#27054757)

        I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you aren't a professional writer, or at least not a professional writer of fiction.

        Here's the thing. Putting aside the ridiculous assumption that you have a right to the product of someone else's creative efforts by virtue of being born, people gotta eat, right? So let's say that music is free to whoever wants it, and anyone can play it or listen to it whenever with no consideration to the creator of the work. Now, the only people making money from music are the people who are playing it. That's fine, as far as it goes; songwriters would either learn an instrument or go in to a different line of work. You can project how this would affect music but the bottom line is that musicians could still make money.

        An author only makes money when someone pays for their work. An author only makes money when someone pays for their work. Read that one more time, just to get it firmly in your head. Essayists and authors of short stories are usually freelance, and novelists have to commit a serious length of time and effort to put out one saleable work. Even if you get rid of freelancing somehow and just rely on staff writers (which would result in lower-quality, monolithic work) there's no such thing as a "staff novelist". And it's a little silly to suggest that authors should only be paid for reading their books to live audiences. So, the only time an author makes a profit, or a return on the investment of time and effort he/she has made, is when they sell the rights to a publisher or copies to readers (if they self-publish). Take that away, and no one will write works of any real length. Why? Because they can't afford to spend 3 months writing a book for which they will receive little or no money with which to support themselves, and it takes a damn long time to write a novel if you've got to work a full-time day job.

        There's also the issue of justice. My work does not, I repeat, does not belong to all humanity. Humanity has never in its long and illustrious history written a damn thing. Saying that a particular work of art belongs to "humanity" as opposed to the artist who made it makes about as much sense as saying that your car belongs to humanity. And, as for the right to alter a work and claim it as your own, how would you feel if you built a house and then someone slapped a coat of paint on it, sold it, and kept the profits? Besides, authors are perfectly welcome to release works for free. How many good novels have you seen written by modern, living authors for free?

        You talk about "we" and "society" and "humanity" giving up rights to the creative works of individuals as if "society" even has some sort of rights in that regard. By your logic, "society" has the right to anyone and everyone's labor, unless you believe that art, music and literature are somehow inferior to other kinds of work. You talk about authors making their works "less accessible and less useful to society" as if authors have some sort of occupational responsibility above and beyond that of any other career. For one thing, it's a little like accusing shop owners with burglar alarms of making their goods less accessible and useful to society. For another, our country isn't and has never been about people having a responsibility to make themselves useful to society. Assuming we're talking about the US, we're based around the idea that individuals have the right to do whatever they want to as a profession (assuming it's legal) and make whatever money they can doing it. Maybe you're thinking of a command economy, like a communist or socialist system, both of which aren't exactly renowned for their tendencies to develop great works of art, or even decent works of art for that matter.

        This was a bit of a tirade, but I'm a writer (as yet unpublished), as are several of my friends, and if you were to suggest to any of us that you had some sort of right to the stories we've spent hours, days, weeks or months writing, rewriting and generally trying to cobble in to the best shape possible after racking our brains for inspiration that might or might not come, it's even money as to whether you'd get laughed out of the room or carried out on a stretcher. And we've all got day jobs.

        • by Dolohov (114209) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:33PM (#27055051)

          Putting aside the ridiculous assumption that you have a right to the product of someone else's creative efforts by virtue of being born, people gotta eat, right?

          Fine. Give up your right and your childrens' rights to the work of Shakespeare, Coleridge, Handel, Mozart, Bach, Homer, Cicero, da Vinci, and all the other people who were infinitely more talented than you will ever be. Then we'll talk about who has rights to whose works and when.

        • Eating Shakespeare (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:42PM (#27055167) Homepage Journal

          Putting aside the ridiculous assumption that you have a right to the product of someone else's creative efforts by virtue of being born, people gotta eat, right?

          Let's not put aside that notion.

          As someone who was once born, I have a right to Shakespeare's "King Lear". I can't coerce someone into printing me a book with the play printed in it to take with no compensation. But if I buy that book, I can perform the play, recite it in public (for a fee, if anyone will pay me). I could even put my name on it and sell it to a magazine for publication, if that magazine would pay me. I have the right to quote as much as I want in my own different story. I can rewrite it in modern English, or slang. I can write my own story about a king driving themself mad that's exactly like "King Lear". My birthright as a person is to inherit my folk culture and use it as I please, without anyone retaining the right to stop me (short of some clear and present danger of violence or something like that).

          Writers share that birthright, of course. Without it, they'd have no cultural context to write their own "original" works. I quote "original" because practically all works, especially the most popular, derive closely from previous works. Our culture assigns value to new work that refers to the old work embedded in the culture. Without the old work, and free use of it, practically none of the new work would be even recognizable as valuable at all.

          Yes, people gotta eat. The protection of copyright for some "opportunity window" like the original Constitutional 14 years, within which your monopoly should protect the "promotion of science and the useful arts". Or, if you double your investment, or maybe tenfold (so artists living above the poverty line can live well on the profits while they produce another work), your monopoly expires earlier. But copyrights that preserve the monopoly for every work to protect the maximum profit forever, excluding the works from the culture, are not at all a good compromise with free expression of people for their own culture.

          People gotta eat. But people also need our own folk culture. After "pop" becomes "folk" (fairly quickly, about a human generation later), most of the value in the work is being contributed by the people perpetuating it. Copyright has a long way (smaller) to go to properly reflect those essential values.

      • by mbone (558574)

        These changes were driven by corporations, not artists. There was no deep consideration of the longer terms, just a response to lobbying by corporate interests.

        • by Dolohov (114209)

          And if the changes are only benefiting corporations and not artists, then it's definitely time to revisit the old questions.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        Should writers be paid at all for their work?"

        You know, historically, artists were paid because people liked their work, not just because they made it.

        Now everyone seems to think they are entitled to be paid just because they did it, not because anyone liked it.

        While the points you made are great ones, you'll have too types of artists that respond to what you have written. One says 'I agree, and I don't really care about copyright cause my work is good enough that I'm going to get paid either way'. The ot

  • by qbzzt (11136) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:22PM (#27053075)

    Should writers be paid at all for their work?

    Not for out of copyright works. If you've been dead for seventy years you can do without the money.

    Not for discussing Google as a monopoly provider of out of copyright works anybody is allowed to copy either, for that matter.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by noidentity (188756)
      Actually, I think writers should be able to get paid for their work, just as others do... work, as in labor. And only paid once.
      • by Dolohov (114209)

        Yeah, but who does the paying, and who sets the price? Right now the idea is that most of the people who make use of a work pay a small amount to the author. Sum that up over the author's life, and that's a reasonable approximation of the price of the work, paid out by a reasonable approximation of society as a whole. In a lot of ways, that's a really crappy way to get paid for your labor.

        Me, I'd like to see a Public Domain advocate -- an charitable organization with a decent bankroll that buys creative

        • Me, I'd like to see a Public Domain advocate -- an charitable organization with a decent bankroll that buys creative works on behalf of society, paying a lump sum in exchange for an immediate transfer into the public domain.

          Oh, perhaps something like this [nea.gov]?

          Probably not exactly what you had in mind, but there it is. Personally, I'm a bit divided as to the intrinsic merit of something like this. On one had, the grouchy cost conscious republican in me thinks that the 'government' has no business spending

          • by Dolohov (114209)

            I thought that the recipients of NEA grants kept the copyright to their respective works?

            No, I was more thinking, a group that would approach the author (or estate) who owned a work that is already completed and published and maybe not selling well, and saying, "Hey, we'll give you a thousand bucks to release this title into the public domain." and the author either takes it or leaves it. Maybe it'd be spent a few hundred bucks at a time so that old sci-fi authors can retire. Maybe they'd save up a billio

      • Actually, I think writers should be able to get paid for their work, just as others do... work, as in labor. And only paid once.

        And I suppose that the printers should be paid just once too, no matter how many copies they produce?

        You wouldn't be saying that they deserve to make money for ever and ever over the work of others, without giving the creator of that work their cut, would you?

        • by MBGMorden (803437)

          To be fair, the printers are CONTINUING work each time they print a new book. That's the way the natural world works. The carpenter gets money for a chair he builds. He doesn't get money every time somebody sits in it or every time somebody likes it and decides to build another like it. Publishers are much the same (and there are many publishers who even specialize in printing public domain books - Dover Thrift Editions come to mind for example) in that they continue to work and expend materials each ti

        • by Dogtanian (588974)

          Actually, I think writers should be able to get paid for their work, just as others do... work, as in labor. And only paid once.

          And I suppose that the printers should be paid just once too, no matter how many copies they produce?

          Desirable or not, that would be consistent with the OP's logic; the printers generally get paid once at an agreed rate for each item they print, then get no further payment for those same physical items in the future. Of course, if they wanted to make more money, they could print more copies at an agreed rate. Just like a writer could write more books if he wanted more money.

          That's not a position that I'm arguing for or agree with personally. However, it *is* the logical extension of the OP's position, no

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by qbzzt (11136)

        work, as in labor. And only paid once.

        The problem is that in most cases nobody knows how valuable the work is going to be [baens-universe.com]. Therefore, it is hard to price the work until you see how many people will pay to read it.

        • The problem is that in most cases nobody knows how valuable the work is going to be. Therefore, it is hard to price the work until you see how many people will pay to read it.

          I saw a brilliant argument last year, to the effect of: The copyright system (or even the entire IP system) is an imperfect approximation of "compensate creators for the value of their content". There's nothing special about "copying", per se; if nobody wanted to read your book, then nobody would want to copy it either.

          But copying, u

  • Public Domain! (Score:5, Informative)

    by IMarvinTPA (104941) <IMarvinTPA.IMarvinTPA@com> on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:40PM (#27053301) Homepage Journal

    Why is the term "out-of-copyright" being used instead of "public domain"?

    When a copyrighted work's copyright expires, it goes into the public domain, which means there are no restrictions upon the work at all.

    IMarv

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:42PM (#27053337) Homepage

    This isn't about "out of copyright" works. It's about works that are still under copyright, but out of print. Google effectively just bought the rights to all out of print books.

    Here's the Author's Guild description of the deal. [authorsguild.org] Authors can opt out, but only have until May 9 to do so.

    These are the actual terms: [googlebooksettlement.com]

    The settlement, if Court-approved, will authorize Google to scan in-copyright Books and Inserts in the United States, and maintain an electronic database of Books. For out-of-print Books and, if permitted by Rightsholders of in-print Books, Google will be able to sell access to individual Books and institutional subscriptions to the database, place advertisements on any page dedicated to a Book, and make other commercial uses of Books. At any time, Rightsholders can change instructions to Google regarding any of those uses. Through a Book Rights Registry ("Registry") established by the settlement, Google will pay Rightsholders 63% of all revenues from these uses.

  • Get It Right (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @01:55PM (#27053585) Journal

    The first reply makes it quite clear that Google cannot have a "monopoly" over anything free. Paying for it unnecessarily and voluntarily was a kind gesture on Google's part.

    If Google is to be lambasted for "only" paying up to $300 per work, then what's to be said of Project Gutenburg, which has been giving away text of out of copyright books for years, and has paid the authors absolutely nothing?

    What's to be made of it all is TFA is a misguided, biased to the point of fictionalizing of details, underhanded attempt to foist tinfoil hat quality editorializing on /. in the guise of news. Had the MafIAA attempted to collect on out-of-copyright works, they'd be laughed out of court and rightfully humiliated in the press. That's the kind of treatment TFA deserves.

    • by Dolohov (114209)

      Apparently TFA was simply incorrect - Google's agreement with the Author's Guild is over out of PRINT books, not out of copyright.

  • This must be one of the most self-serving organizations on the planet. Why on Earth anyone would want to join them is beyond me. Their annual dues BEGIN at 90 dollars a year and are adjusted on a sliding scale for an author's writing income(!) In exchange, what do they provide? A quarterly newsletter, "discount" health, legal and web services, and, uh, oh yes, they will work very hard to sue anyone attempting to promote your writing, like Google, Amazon, etc.

    Just how do they recruit members? Do they send tr

  • How can you have a monopoly on out-of-copyright books?

  • seems to be that google decided that it was easier to pay off the writer's guild to prevent them from filing a meritless suit against google for using out-of-copyright materials. I don't consider google the enemy here, I think it's retarded that they had to bribe someone to prevent them from engaging in meritless litigation against them. At least they didn't have to pay a lot for it. Though probably this was the best way for Google to go when it all comes down to it, in today's screwed up legal world.

  • Sorry (Score:2, Informative)

    by Miracle Jones (976646)
    That should be "out-of-print," not "out-of-copyright." NOW everybody go nuts and tell me how terrible I am. --Jones
  • Seems right to me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BigBadBus (653823) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @02:49PM (#27054397) Homepage
    I'm a writer, and I agree that more of the book's profits should go to the person who did all the hard work actually writing the text, researching the material etc. Thats not to see that a publisher shouldn't get something; after all, they bind, market and distribute the books, but surely the people who provided the publisher with its profits shouldn't get more money? A friend is a successful author and he gets only 1/17th of the profits of the book. I decided to write my book as an ebook, so that the profits come direct to me and not some pen pushing non entity, but I come across the problems of marketing and publicity.

    Moral: authors (unless you are established) just can't win. Makes you wonder why we bother.

    • by taustin (171655)

      Your friend gets 1/17th of the profits? Or 1/17th of the retail price? 6% of the sale price is about right for most areas of publishing, from what I'm told. 6% of the profits, however, is another matter entirely. I'll buy you lunch if it's actually 1/17th of the profits.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by einhverfr (238914)

      You should look at on-demand publishers too. Many will let you set the price of the book and just charge a flat rate for producing it. It cost me $299 to set my book (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1439223084 [amazon.com]) up for print-on-demand through Booksurge. They don't let me set the price, but I get 35% of list price as royalties through retail channels.

      I am also looking at creating a publishing business and expect to do some things differently (generally pay authors 20% of list price on every book sale, but

    • by BitZtream (692029)

      How much are you going to pay the people who invented and contributed to the language you are using in your book?

      It seems only fair. Since you are demanding payment for your contribution, I demand payment for mine. I speak and contribute to the language on a daily basis, sometimes inventing new words, but these are part of the whole package and may not be excluded from the language. (This is all in my standard contract, which you failed to read/sign before using my contributions to language).

      So, unless y

  • Many people speculate that Google's monopoly over all of out-of-copyright works will result in a brutal monopoly that will hurt both writers and readers, and that the 'Author's Guild' had no right to make the deal in the first place.

    How does Google protect a monopoly on that content without copyright preventing competitors from copying it and distributing it?

  • by ecloud (3022) on Tuesday March 03, 2009 @03:17PM (#27054825) Homepage Journal

    The authors tend to be dead and it's their grandchildren receiving this extra money.

    Whenever a Disney property is headed towards copyright expiration, the copyright term gets extended anyway.

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