Google and a group of partners filed revised settlement terms in a US federal court on Friday. The revised terms are notable for the exclusion of works from many countries that objected to its original settlement proposal.
The new proposal essentially covers just works from the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Representatives from those countries will be on the board of the Rights Registry that will be formed to record and look after the interests of affected rightsholders whose works have been scanned.
In a blog post announcing the filing, Google Books Engineering Director Dan Clancy wrote:
We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to provide access to as many books from as many countries through the settlement as a result of our modifications, but we look forward to continuing to work with rightsholders from around the world to fulfill our longstanding mission of increasing access to all the world’s books.
Interestingly, many of those from countries excluded from the deal might now be asking themselves, “Why can’t we be in, too?” Perhaps this is part of the clever psychology of the deal, creating an apparent “haves” and “have nots” so that the excluded parties feel obliged to open negotiations with Google.
In Europe, this will probably head off the showdown that was looming with the European Union. And worldwide, the deal might have the positive effect of moving governments and cultural institutions from their slumber to start seriously investing in digitising their written heritage.
From New Zealand’s point of view, as one of the excluded parties, it opens up real opportunities to take control of the process and to do it in a way that is more respectful of rightholders and copyright protections. This should be a spur for the public institutions and the commercial sector to join forces and begin the process of digitising important older, in-copyright works.
Thanks to TeleRead and Publishers Lunch for the summary of key points below:
The revised Settlement has made a number of important changes:
1. Foreign language works are out: the scope is limited to works registered with the US Copyright Office and books published in Canada, Australia and the U.K. There will be representatives from those countries on the Book Rights Registry board.
2. There will be an independent court-approved fiduciary who will represent rights-holders of unclaimed books and act to protect their interests, including licensing their works.
3. The Books Rights Registry is not required to search for rights-holders who have not come forward.
4. Third parties will be able to sell access to all settlement works, including orphans, even though Google will host the titles.
5. Revenue models have been limited to print on demand, file download and subscriptions.
6. Rights-holders may make their works available for free.
7. The Google’s most favored nation treatment has been eliminated allowing the Registry to license works to third parties without extending the same terms to Google.
See also this New York Times story.
Martin Taylor (@nztaylor) has been involved in the publishing, technology and internet fields for more than 20 years. He operates a digital publishing consultancy and founded the Digital Publishing Forum, an initiative to accelerate the development of digital publishing in New Zealand. In a former life, he published technology and business magazines.