Friday, February 13, 2009

Googley do

Several of us sat in on a web conference call this week to learn more about how the Google Book Settlement affects Canadian authors. The call included a review of the powerpoint presentation found here in pdf, on the Access Copyright site.

There is more information available on Google, including a way to check whether your (in-print) books have been digitized by Google up to January 5, 2009, and are therefore covered by the settlement.

Be warned, you must create a Registry account in order to search for your books, and this registry asks for a lot of personal information; you can't proceed to the search screen until you provide it. Surely this is some kind of violation of privacy? I have written to Rust Consulting (a Minneapolis-based "trusted leader for complex data management...claims processing and award distribution"), who appears to be the owner of the registry, with the following questions; I'll let you know if I get an answer:
  • Why is this amount of information required for a search to see if I'm included? Why not ask for it only if/when the search has produced results for a claim?
  • If I'm not included, what do you intend to do with my personal information?
  • Why does your form not explain which fields are required fields? You obviously know which ones are required.
But back to your created works. If your books are covered, you have until January 5, 2010 to claim for payment; or until May 5, 2009 to opt out (if, for example, you want to pursue your own claim through the courts with Google). The money set aside for compensating authors for the violation of copyright entailed by the digitization project amounts to a stonking great payment of around $60 per book for single-authored books. Hurrah! Enough for a bottle of champagne (or slightly more cava or prosecco).

The reason authors are pursuing this is that Google, whose stated mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" (while reaping huge corporate profits themselves), has in this ambition conveniently side-stepped any responsibility to allow authors to earn a living from their writings. Which is the whole point of copyright.

During the web conference, one author wondered why libraries thought they had the right to offer their collections for free digitization, when they do not own the copyright. Nobody had a good answer on this call; it would be interesting to hear a library's reasoning.

The whole process is skewed towards the interests of everybody except the people who created the work being passed around for free. The libraries who donate their collections to the project get a digitized copy back; the authors of those works do not.

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2 Comments:

Blogger the regina mom said...

Oh, thanks for this, Rhona! I'd forgotten to ask you about it. I got snarled up in a poem or something and didn't make it to the call.

Hope the new Colonists are well-settled.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Rhona McAdam said...

Here's the (non) answer I got from Rust, so I guess I'll be phoning them one of these days:

From: BookSettlement (booksettlement@rustconsulting.com)
Sent: February 16, 2009 5:17:26 AM
To: Rhona McAdam
Subject: RE: Registry accounts‏

Thank you for contacting the Google Book Search Settlement Administrator. This message is in response to your Friday, February 13th 2009 email.

There is no published list of Books that Google has digitized or will likely digitize by May 5, 2009. The reason we are not just publishing a list of already digitized books is to prevent people from submitting fraudulent claims for the Cash Payments for digitized books.

However, Claimants can learn whether their books have been or will likely be digitized as of May 5, 2009 through the online claiming process.

To claim and manage your books, you will need to first register and set up a username and password. You will then receive an email requesting that you verify your email address. Once this is complete, you may begin searching, claiming and managing your books.

To do so, log into your account and click on the FIND AND CLAIM button. You will then be directed to the TOOLS FOR FINDING AND CLAIMING BOOKS AND INSERTS page. Select the SEARCH FOR BOOKS option and click on CONTINUE. The next screen will give you search options.

For further questions, please contact the Settlement Administrator at 1-888-356-0248, Monday - Friday, 7am - 8pm (CST) and we will be happy to assist you.

7:06 AM  

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