ACU filed an amicus curiae brief – in the form of a letter – Aug. 26, supporting the final approval of a settlement involving Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York will make the final call in the case.
Google aims to make available digital copies of millions of out-of-print and hard-to-find books. Google has no plans to release an e-reader to complement the current GoogleBooks system, however, emphasizing how important it is that readers be able to access the system from desktops, notebooks and mobile devices.
Surprisingly, copyright concerns have taken a backseat to worries about future violations of antitrust laws. Concerns extend beyond American borders, across the Atlantic to Europe.
The European Commission said the settlement as-is would create a situation where “the vast number of European works in U.S. libraries that have been digitized by Google would only be available to consumers and researchers in the U.S., but not in Europe itself,” the Independent reported Oct. 17.
EU Media Commissioner Viviane Reding said Europe “had most to offer and most to win from books’ digitization as long it can sort out the legal issues that prevent book scanning,” according to the Independent.
In an attempt to reassure Europeans and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who publicly criticized Google’s efforts, Google executives flew to Germany to meet with publishers.
American universities – including Abilene Christian University – have plenty to win, as well. Access to these books would save researchers significant time and money, both valuable in the research process. ACU students also would be able to access rare books instantly from their iPhones and iPod Touches.
The Boston Globe wrote that the existence of “orphan books, titles that are believed to be under copyright but whose ownership is difficult to ascertain,” is overshadowing the possibility for advancement. The Globe contended copyright information exists for millions of out-of-print and hard-to-find books, and more than 30,000 publishers in 80 countries have already taken advantage of Google’s partner program.
Users are allowed to preview only 20 percent of most entries, and Google keeps a close eye on traffic patterns to prevent individuals from creating multiple accounts in order to piece together entire books. Google provides links to the publisher’s online bookstore and other online retailers. Partnering publishers also receive weekly reports of traffic for their books.
We support the final approval of this settlement, but the devil is in the details. If the fine print is not carefully worded, Google could end up monopolizing content next to impossible to find anywhere else. But the transparency Google has shown so far leaves us confident a solution can be reached that would allow Google, the publisher and the reader to benefit equally.