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Old 08-21-2009, 08:04 AM   #1
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MS, Amazon, Yahoo join forces against Google Books digitization

NYTimes:
Quote:
Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo are planning to join a coalition of nonprofit groups, individuals and library associations to oppose a proposed class-action settlement giving Google the rights to commercialize digital copies of millions of books.
The settlement between Google and groups representing authors and publishers, which is awaiting court approval, has attracted opposition from various corners of the book world. The Department of Justice has also opened an antitrust investigation into the implications of the agreement.
Gary L. Reback, an antitrust lawyer in Silicon Valley, who is acting as counsel to the coalition, said that Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo had all agreed to join the group, which is tentatively called the Open Book Alliance. The group, led by Mr. Reback and the Internet Archive, a nonprofit group that has been critical of the settlement, plans to make a case to the Justice Department that the arrangement is anticompetitive. Members of the alliance will most likely file objections with the court independently.
“This deal has enormous, far-reaching anticompetitive consequences that people are just beginning to wake up to,” said Mr. Reback, a lawyer with Carr & Ferrell, a firm in Palo Alto, Calif. In the 1990s, Mr. Reback helped persuade the Justice Department to file its landmark antitrust case against Microsoft.
Some library associations and groups representing authors are also planning to join the coalition, he said.
Microsoft and Yahoo confirmed that they were participants; Amazon refused to comment. Earlier this summer, Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, criticized the settlement.
Google reached the sweeping settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers in October. The two groups had sued Google for copyright infringement in 2005 over the company’s plan to digitize millions of books from libraries, alleging copyright violations. The agreement sets up a mechanism for Google, along with a registry operated by authors and publishers, to display and sell millions of books online.
The parties in the settlement have hailed it as a huge public good, arguing that the agreement will make millions of out-of-print books widely available online and in libraries across the country. They have said it will also create new ways for millions of authors to make money from digital copies of their books, and that other companies could secure deals similar to the one Google obtained under the settlement.
See also: BBC, Techradar.
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Old 08-21-2009, 08:19 AM   #2
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And what plans does this "Open Book Alliance" have to make OOP and rare books available to the public? Or did they just choose the name because "openness" sounds good and the whole "open book" thing is a nice pun?
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Old 08-21-2009, 08:21 AM   #3
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And what plans does this "Open Book Alliance" have to make OOP and rare books available to the public? Or did they just choose the name because "openness" sounds good and the whole "open book" thing is a nice pun?
Seeing that Microsoft is in on this. I would say "Trying to cash in on it" is the plan.
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Old 08-21-2009, 08:25 AM   #4
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Seeing that Microsoft is in on this. I would say "Trying to cash in on it" is the plan.
Seeing that Microsoft AND Amazon are in on this - I would say "Really trying to cash in on it" is the plan.
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Old 08-21-2009, 08:31 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Slite View Post
Seeing that Microsoft is in on this. I would say "Trying to cash in on it" is the plan.
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Seeing that Microsoft AND Amazon are in on this - I would say "Really trying to cash in on it" is the plan.
My thoughts exactly. I'm not the biggest Google fan, but I do think that this whole mass library digitization thing is a good first step towards having (mostly) searchable versions of all these books. Sure, there will be bumps along the way and details to iron out, which is what we're seeing happening. But when Microsoft/Yahoo (let's face it, they've essentially merged at this point thanks to Y's new CEO) and Amazon start crying "foul" because a competitor took the initiative and did something that needed to be done, well, I don't have any sympathy for them at all, and I can see the move for what it is--an attempt to cash in on their competitor's efforts.
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Old 08-21-2009, 09:18 AM   #6
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Of course, they're not specifying that the settlement only concerns things that weren't legal before, and Google never requested the grant(s) to be exclusive. The AAP and the Guild are trying to FUD and make Google look bad for something THEY are responsible for, and now come the other sharks.
The monopoly prophecies are particularly laughable.. It's up to the Congress to do the legislation right, and protect everyone against the Guild suing threats.
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Old 08-21-2009, 09:29 AM   #7
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The Internet Archive also joined the coalition, but their motivations are likely to be a bit different from MS, Yahoo and Amazon ones:

Quote:
Peter Brantley, a director at coalition co-founder Internet Archive [...] Mr. Brantley said that members of the coalition all see problems with the settlement and are pushing for revisions, but not all necessarily want to see it blocked.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1250...googlenews_wsj
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Old 08-21-2009, 01:33 PM   #8
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Well, the whole thing annoys me. No one cared about "orphan works" until Google came along, and then BAM...everyone wants a piece. There are lots of things out of print/copyright that I'd love to be able to get in ebook format, but the publishers don't care about re-releasing them, because they think they won't make any money off them, and the authors aren't alive to nag them about it. Google Books would have solved this nicely, but noooo....*goes off muttering*
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Old 08-21-2009, 04:51 PM   #9
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An interesting article here: http://hasbrouck.org/articles/Google...tersRights.pdf

However..
Quote:
[...]

Once the lawsuit was filed, Google adopted the same strategy that had worked so well for the defendants in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick: use the lawsuit to negotiate a “settlement” that wouldn't just provide compensation for past infringement, but would give the defendants – the copyright thieves – a license by default, in perpetuity, to continue their previously infringing conduct, protected from further liability by the release of claims embodied in the settlement.

With Google's deep pockets, they were able to get an even better deal for themselves than the one the defendants had negotiated with Boni in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick. Google had to pay a bit more – a total of $125 million including $30 million to Boni and his co-counsel – but for that they got a settlement that would, among other features, give Google an effectively exclusive license for the rest of the life of the copyright to market electronic copies of all out-of-print but in-copyright books for which the rightsholders don't come forward to claim a share of the revenues or object to Google’s “use’ of their work.
I don't pretend to perfectly understand what's going on (in my previous post "not legal" wasn't really appropriate), but Google defended themselves by saying costs to negociate with each copyright holder would be astronomical.
What I didn't know is the following, which backs up Google's apology:
Quote:
There’s little reason for publishers to be involved at all in making decisions about electronic publication of most of these works. The vast majority of in-copyright books subject to the settlement (a) were published before e-books or the Internet were conceived of, and (b) are out of print. Authors never assigned publishers any electronic rights to most of these books. For the minority for which e-rights were assigned (as part of a “subsidiary rights” clause applicable to “all rights” or “rights in all media now known or hereafter invented”) those rights have under typical contracts long since reverted to the author as a result of the book going out of print. While some have tried to portray the settlement as being “primarily” about orphan works, by the numbers it is overwhelmingly about books for which the e-rights are 100% author-owned, and with respect to which the settlement would transfer a share of control and revenues to publishers.
The article also does not insist much on the fact that the grant is about out-of-print books, not in-print books or already available through digital distribution (although the latter is ambiguous as stated in the article, I doubt that Google is trying to steal). This might still be a bit disturbing, but since the ones who care about their out-of-print works get a reasonable compensation for works not in print anymore and that have been made profitable long ago..

Last edited by Syniurge; 08-21-2009 at 04:55 PM.
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Old 08-21-2009, 06:34 PM   #10
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Well, the whole thing annoys me. No one cared about "orphan works" until Google came along, and then BAM...everyone wants a piece. There are lots of things out of print/copyright that I'd love to be able to get in ebook format, but the publishers don't care about re-releasing them, because they think they won't make any money off them, and the authors aren't alive to nag them about it. Google Books would have solved this nicely, but noooo....*goes off muttering*
Of course people cared. A lot of the criticism against the current laws is because of orphan works.
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Old 08-21-2009, 06:53 PM   #11
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Irony, (noun): Microsoft and Amazon claiming another company's practices are "anti-competitive."
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Old 08-21-2009, 07:02 PM   #12
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I share others' qualms about this... albeit personally I find Google's digitized Public Domain works being prepended with implied (albeit not explicitly made) legal threats advising against commercial use to be rather spineless, and do not view them as a white knight either.

They had a chance to help restore millions of public domain books to their rightful owners: everyone. And they stopped short of going all the way in a clean, honest, and straightforward manner. As the saying goes: Weak!

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Old 08-21-2009, 07:28 PM   #13
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True, Google is hardly a purely benevolent corporation, but the public percepion is that Google is doing a great thing by making these orphaned books available to the public.

I've downloaded over a dozen rare books that I needed for research, but couldn't afford to go to England to read at the one library that had a copy in stock.
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Old 08-21-2009, 07:32 PM   #14
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True, Google is hardly a purely benevolent corporation, but the public percepion is that Google is doing a great thing by making these orphaned books available to the public.

I've downloaded over a dozen rare books that I needed for research, but couldn't afford to go to England to read at the one library that had a copy in stock.
No doubt.

I just wish governments had provided clear guidelines that reinforced the inviolability of the public domain... with no wiggle room for any of that scan-copyright bullshit ambiguity.

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Old 08-21-2009, 07:45 PM   #15
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Microsoft and Yahoo joining forces against Google? I doubt this has anything to do with the recent Microsoft-Yahoo search deal.
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