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Federal Judge Rejects Google Books Deal 234

Posted by timothy
from the edge-of-the-copyright-envelope dept.
14erCleaner writes "US Circuit Judge Denny Chin has rejected a $125 million settlement between Google Books and the author's guild that would have allowed Google to publish all out-of-work fiction online. Chin has previously ruled more favorably on this case."
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Federal Judge Rejects Google Books Deal

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  • A Point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:31PM (#35580772)
    Judge Chin does make a good point. Even though the book is out of print, the author is still the copyright holder and should have say in whether or not the out of print book may go into a Google digital library. After all, maybe the publisher decided to drop the book because it wasn't selling and the author may want to look for a different publisher or attempt to self-publish. I can see the digitalization of out of print material where the author is deceased and therefore has no say in the matter.
  • by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:36PM (#35580810) Journal

    They sue as a class.

    The lead plaintiffs will be the guild and a few of its members. They'll extend the class to include all of the Guild's members and anyone else who's ever learned to scrape a pencil without breaking the point. Most of the class won't know they're in it until all the litigating is over.

    The rest of the members will be mailed a notification of settlement, including instructions on how to get their $0.38 share of the award (the lawyers, of course, will get about $45M off the top).

    The notification will include instructions on several ways not to get your $0.38, one of which will be to opt-out, retaining your rights to sue Google as an individual.

    Good luck spending $10 million protecting the copyright on a book you can't get anyone to print even for a fee any more.

    Oh, and dear Google, did you mispell one or more of the words in "Don't Be Evil"?

  • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:44PM (#35580910)

    I bet there's hundreds of books that would be useful to me that could either not be found over here, out of print, or just plain overpriced that need some better system for handling them in this age.

    I bet there are too.

    However, having one corporate behemoth gain EXCLUSIVE rights to the works by paying a guild that doesn't actually necessarily even have rights to all the works in question is NOT THE SOLUTION.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:50PM (#35580996) Homepage

    I do get the point of class actions, but it should be an essential requirement in such settlements that the defendant cease the activity hurting the plaintiffs. Just because Toyota settles a class action over faulty brakes don't mean they now have a perpetual legal indemnity to continue shipping faulty brakes. Yet Google wants to retain the right to continue using all these works, it's a licensing scheme not a damage settlement. Just because I happen to be part of a class doesn't mean that class should be able to license my work at will. That is a grant, not a settlement.

  • by Bamfarooni (147312) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:00PM (#35581076)

    Could you be a little more obviously prejudiced? And while you're at it, could you please identify how anyone (Google or not) goes about getting access to (or rights for) a book by a dead author that's not longer in print?

    It sure would be nice if all those works weren't effectively dead (and their knowledge lost) just because my local bookstore or library can't get them.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:03PM (#35581092) Journal

    So the opt-in model is far less valuable to public (and to Google) because it means that far fewer out-of-print books can be made available.

    I was a member of this class, and I'm glad this settlement got overturned. I don't have any out-of-print books, apparently the class included everyone who had a book copyright registered in the USA - Google is indexing and posting online all books that they can, not just ones that are out of print. The reason that I'm glad that the settlement was overturned is that it gives Google far too much power. After paying the token sum, Google may put any out of print books online, but anyone else doing so gets a statutory fine for wilful copyright infringement of $750-$150,000 per book.

    Google basically gambled that they could violate copyright on all books and get away with it. Rather than lobbying to make some sane changes to copyright law, they want copyright to remain overly strict, but to just apply to everyone except them. One law for Google, one law for everyone else. Of course, it's okay because Google isn't evil...

  • Re:lame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sortadan (786274) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:18PM (#35581218)
    It would be nice to get free things, and I hate the MPAA and RIAA as much as the next /.er, but rewarding a company for illegally copying books from the library seems lame to me. Digitizing the data is to make a reproduction of the work by definition. It doesn't even have to be distributed by google, the fact that they have kept scanned master copies of all the books they could get their hands on is illegal. I don't understand why they have been able to keep this dataset at all...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:26PM (#35581292)

    I have to agree though I do consider it a great loss(and a failing of our current copyright system) that vast numbers of works will effectively be lost forever if the last copies expire before the copyright does.
    in the US that means forever the way things are going.
    Can't go making copies without permission from the copyright holder after all.

    If you litterally cannot find anyone to pay or ask permission from then you can't make it your own more permanent copy.

    it would be a less significant problem if you had to send books to a few legal deposit libraries in order to get a copyright at all.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:38PM (#35581368) Homepage

    It sure would be nice if all those works weren't effectively dead (and their knowledge lost) just because my local bookstore or library can't get them.

    They are not lost. Pretty much every work has to be deposited in the Library of Congress or similar institutions (Nasjonalarkivet here in Norway). If you truly wanted copyright to expire earlier you could easily make some kind of process where abandoned works would enter the public domain.

    In fact that was the case in the US up to 1992. The problem was that a lot of active holders failed to realize and erroneously let their works expire. Plus there's as far as I know no good international system of renewal so really only the big corporations with procedures would get it done worldwide. It's a less than ideal system yet still massively better than letting Google just grab it underhandedly.

  • Re:A Point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rockoon (1252108) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:51PM (#35581470)
    So a publisher can send your book directly to the public domain by simply declining to continue printing it? Really?
  • Re:lame (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mug funky (910186) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @10:52PM (#35582244)

    but if the works are out of print...

    perhaps if copyright holders had some kind of burden of maintenance - ie when a property reaches "end of life" and is no longer worth the shelf-space, then rights should be forfeit.

    otherwise too much culture will vanish.

    what i'm seeing (there's scant information in TFA and no links to previous discussion of the case) seems like "i don't want it, but i'd be damned if they're gonna get it".

    if IP is no longer profitable, then how are the plaintiffs losing anything?

  • Re:lame (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stuntmonkey (557875) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @12:55AM (#35582846)

    I think you're missing the core issue. Google scanning a bunch of books and then not showing them to anybody is hard to make out as a crime against humanity. The crime against humanity is a copyright system that renders nearly all out-of-print books (i.e., 95% of books ever written) as orphans, protected against copying but with authors that are long-gone (in many cases long-dead). Everyone loses in this situation: Authors of out of print books cannot make money, readers can't get the books unless they live close to a good library, and publishers receive no revenue from this back-catalog of older material. The core question is, how do we get all of that content to be useful again? The judge's "solution" of opt-in is no solution, because by definition orphaned works have no rights holder to opt in for them.

    The correct answer would be to change our copyright laws to accomodate for orphaned works. With this ruling I hope Congress finally grows the stones to take that on, however with the Hollywood lobby I'm not hopeful. In the end we will likely have millions of volumes of our culture simply vanish as at the library of Alexandria, all because nobody cares.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @06:14AM (#35584010) Journal

    But redistribution isn't necessary here, if everybody can get them from Google.

    That seems to be the core of the disagreement here. You think it's fine for Google to be allowed to be the guardian of our written culture, without any copyright or oversight, and I don't.

APL is a write-only language. I can write programs in APL, but I can't read any of them. -- Roy Keir

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