It never ceases to amaze me how many people think they should be able to get the hard work of writers for free. They must believe we are all rich while the truth is, the vast majority of writers earn far below the poverty level for their work. The smallest portion of the price of a book (often a single digit percentage) goes to the author, and you have to sell a lot of books to earn even a modest a living as a writer. So I am always glad when someone stands up to protect the rights of writers. This is one of those times.
From Publishers' Weekly:
Calling the proposed settlement
“breathtaking,” “trailblazing” and “audacious,” representatives from
the Authors Guild, Association of American Publishers and Google said
the end of three years of litigation between the parties will usher in
a new period for publishers, authors and Google to generate new revenue
streams from books that become part of Google’s search engine. Authors
Guild executive director Paul Aiken noted that while Google and authors
still have major disagreements over the notion of copyright, it was
important to put those concerns aside to forge an agreement that will
provide authors with the two things they want most–their books to be
read and a good royalty check. Richard Sarnoff of the AAP and
Bertelsmann said that by reaching a settlement Google and publishers
and authors can do more together to build a business than anything that
would have been accomplished by a court ruling.
As part of the $125 million settlement, Google will pay $45 million
to settle the class action lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild.
Authors whose books have already been scanned will receive at least $60
per work. Another $34.5 million will go toward the creation of a Book
Rights Registry that will be responsible for building a database of
rightsholders information and for disbursing all money generated
through the use of books in Google Products and Services. (The
remaining $45.5 million will go to legal and attorney fees). Under the
deal, Google will receive 37% of revenue and rightsholders 67%.
Publishers and authors will have 120 days to opt out of the settlement
once the agreement receives approval from the U.S. District Court for
the Southern District of New York, something that is expected to take
several months. Publishers and authors, including those not directly
involved in the lawsuit, will be considered in the settlement unless
they opt out. What that means is that Google will have the right to
make browsable copies of the books it has scanned through its Library
Project as well as books scanned in through its regular Book Search
program. After the 120 period, authors and publishers will still have
the right to opt out of the program.
Google hopes publishers will want to remain in the program because
of the new revenue opportunities afforded by the agreement. Google will
offer institutions such as academic and public libraries subscriptions
to access its book database; pricing is still being worked, but will
generally be along the size of the institution. As part of the deal,
however, free, full-text online viewing of millions of out-of-print
books at designated computers will be made available through libraries.
Users, whether accessing the database at a library or at home, will be
able to buy online access to a book or print out books for a per-page
charge. Prices can be set by the rightsholder or can be set by a Google
algorithm. Currently, Google has no plans to sell hard copies of books,
and will stick with its option of offering links to places where a book
can be bought. The agreement does give Google the right to add new
services such as print-on-demand and consumer subscription services.
Because of the settlement, more of a book’s content will now be
viewable at one time. Rather than limiting what appears on a screen to
snippets, readers will be able to view up to 20% of a book’s text for
out-of-print books. Books that are in-print will have access limited to
snippets unless the rightsholder grants permission to expand access.
Rightsholders who opt in to the program can maintain control over how
much content that want to be made viewable.
The new Book Rights Registry will be overseen by a board of
publishers and authors and will be built by Google. Although final
approval of the settlement is not expected before the middle of next
year, the parties expect to begin building the registry soon. Part of
its charter will include mechanisms for solving any disputes that
develop among the various parties, something that could arise out of
what Aiken called “the biggest book deal in U.S. publishing history.”