Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Google settlement - opt out by the 4 September if you dare!

I've spent part of yesterday and the day before coming to some sort of understanding about the Google Settlement, poked along by the 4 September deadline for opting out, if you want to.

A few imperfect facts I've gleaned.

It is part of the huge shift as publishing goes online. It will set precedents for the future.

Most people are confused by it and in the long run nobody knows really what will happen as no market has been established yet, though Google is establishing one.

It is an issue for publishers based here in Australia, rather than ones with their head office in London, New York and Paris. If the headquarters are offshore, then that's where the decision has been made.

Like most things digital in book publishing, there's not much money in it - yet. And there may never be, or …

The settlement is about making books available to US customers - not to the rest of us, but it is about making everybody's books (pretty much) available to US customers. The information playing field is tilting towards the US and this is part of it (as is the lack of e-readers - notable the Kindle - outside the US). Markets outside the US and non-English languages are being disadvantaged by these shifts. But Google has given a poke in ribs to everybody outside the US to wake up and think about it.

The settlement only relates to book published before 5 January 2009, but it applies to most books before that date with a US copyright, which is everybody but a very few countries, so a huge body of work. It applies whether or not Google has already digitized this work or not.

If your book has been digitized Google will pay you 60 bucks. But I couldn't find that any of our books have been digitized. Maybe children's books aren't well represented in the libraries that Google chose to digitize. I've been told that some not necessarily obvious books have been digitized.

If you opt out, you can sue Google, which is not something I'm likely to do. But if you opt out I guess you could be included in another class action. Opting out seems to be a statement of principle, rather than one of commerce.

If you don't like what Google has done you can also opt in and tell Google to exclude your book(s), or restrict how Google uses your books.

Publishers and authors need to co-operate. The most restrictive request is the one that is implemented.

But there may be revenue from Google if you include your book. Non-Display uses are really bibliographic uses, allowing the user to find out about the existence of the book, the Display uses is where the revenue stream comes in. You need to register to get a revenue stream and if you register to direct Google what it can and cannot do with your book(s)

This is all still to be confirmed in court.

And what happens to books published after 5 January 2009 is not covered by the settlement. So that's worth thinking about.

The next key date is 5 January 2010.

It's complex, so you can't rely on what I've said here - these are just my thoughts and interpretains. If you're a member of the Australian Publishers Association they will have sent some really (no really) handy flowcharts as well as other useful advice.

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