Mobile Technology News & Mobile Fun

Google gives the floor to advocates of its controversial book deal

By Tim Conneally, Betanews

Google reached a settlement last October with the Author’s Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and several independent authors that filed a class action suit against it three years ago. Once this agreement is approved, Google will be able to greatly increase the number of books that can be searched, previewed and purchased in Google Books. There are currently some seven million books available.

“We hope and expect that this leap forward with our friends and partners in the publishing industry is just the first of many. We love books at Google, and our fondest dream is that Book Search will evolve into a service that ensures that books, along with their authors and publishers, will flourish for many years into the future,” Google said in an announcement earlier this week.

On Tuesday this week, Amazon filed an almost 50-page statement to the New York District Court in charge of approving the deal. Within the document, Amazon makes a strong case against the Google deal, and says it will give Google a monopoly over “orphaned works” (those books whose authors can’t be found or who have opted out), that it creates a price-controlling cartel of authors and publishers, and “Even more egregiously, the settlement releases future claims against Google for types of
infringement expected to be undertaken for the first time after the Effective Date of the
Settlement. These actions are not part of the identical factual predicate of the litigation, and the
Court has no power to bar Class Members from suing over the nearly unlimited array of future
actions Google may take.” This includes all new revenue models such as print on demand, customer subscription models, abstracts, and more.

Amazon is now part of the Open Book Alliance with Microsoft, Yahoo, the Internet Archive, and others who have opposed Google’s 5 million agreement. Because tomorrow was scheduled to be the last day for comments on the deal to be filed in court, the final statements are being made all around. However, the deadline has actually been extended to next Tuesday because of scheduled maintenance to the court’s servers.

Today, Google held a press conference with supporters of the deal, which included civil rights groups and advocates for the disabled.

Chris Danielson of the National Federation for the Blind today said, “Even with existing services, we probably have access to only 5% of the books that are published each year in the United States…[this] will give us access to millions of titles, thereby giving blind people more access to more books than we have ever had in all of human history. It is critically important that this be considered in any discussion of the Google books project.”

Professor Lateef Mtima, founder of the Institute of Intellectual Property & Social Justice at Howard University, a Historically Black College has repeatedly spoken about the opportunities this project offers at bridging the yawning technological chasm between classes. “Whereas many Americans enjoy a fascinating new access opportunity in the realm of copyrighted information and other forms of intellectual property, many segments of American society were stranded on the other side of this ‘digital divide,’ lacking access to this new media…and new form of communication,” Mtima said in July.

Today, Mtima reiterated that point, saying “The obvious social justice and social utility impact that the book project is going to have … are getting lost in the discussion.”

Copyright Betanews, Inc. 2009

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