The US Register of Copyright has come out swinging against the proposed Google Book settlement, describing it as “fundamentally at odds with the law.”
“By permitting Google to engage in a wide array of new uses of most books in existence the settlement would alter the landscape of copyright law,” said head Marybeth Peters in testimony to a US congressional committee. “That is the role of Congress, not the courts.”
To its credit, the US Register of Copyright submission also went strongly into bat for international rightsholders.
We are troubled by the fact that the proposed settlement implicates so many foreign works even when they have not taken steps to enter the United States market. While it would be appropriate to allow foreign nationals to participate voluntarily in licensing programs that may be developed by the BRR [Book Rights Registry] or other collectives, they should not be automatically included in the terms of the settlement. Moreover, we are aware that some foreign governments have noted the possible impact of the proposed settlement on the exclusive rights of their citizens. Indeed, many foreign works have been digitized by Google and swept into the settlement because one copy was in an academic research library in the United States. As a matter of policy, foreign rights holders should not be swept into a class action settlement unknowingly, and they should retain exclusive control of their U.S. markets.
This is the sort of spirited defense that we’d like to have heard from our own side. While European governments have been vocal, even gaining some concessions from Google to put Europeans on the BRR board, not an official peep has been heard from either the New Zealand or Australian governments on this matter, despite prodding and widespread coverage and concern.
Here’s a link to Peters’ full submission to the US House Judiciary Committee. Thanks to Lynley Hood for the link.