GBS: The Urban Libraries Council Supposes the Settlement

The Urban Libraries Council (a “membership organization of North America ‘s premier public library systems and the corporations that serve them”) has filed comments with the court. Unfortunately, although notice of the filing is showing up on PACER, the comments themselves aren’t up yet. All I can link to for you is this HTML version at the ULC’s web site.

In broad strokes, their comments echoes those of their library brethren and sisthren at the ALA/ARL/ACRL: the settlement is a good thing, but we have reservations. When it comes to specifics, however, the ULC is more hard-hitting. After expressing concerns about privacy, pricing, and equity, the ALA brief asks only that the court exercise vigorous continuing oversight. The ULC, however, qualifies its “support” with requests “that the Court require the parties to address the issues raised in this document before approving the proposed settlement.” Those issues number four.

First, the ULC wants more library subscription options. They want an expanded Public Access Service, without the one-terminal-per-building restriction. To that, I can say only, “Ain’t gonna happen.” Unlimited in-library free access at all urban library systems strikes me as a dealbreaker for the copyright owners. The ULC’s position here reinforces my sense that the Public Access Service is a backfired attempt to win library support.

Less controversially, the ULC suggests expanding the Institutional Subscription so that the libraries can provide remote access. I see little trouble here. The Settlement explicitly provides for remote access to the Institutional Subscription for public institutions with Registry approval. Google and Registry also have a catchall provision allowing them to add new categories to the Institutional Subscription. If urban libraries want to buy remote access, Google and the Registry will doubtless be eager to sell it to them.

Second, the ULC wants reader privacy guarantees that match library records confidentiality laws. From what I understand of Google’s planned authentication model, this should be quite feasible. Google’s blog post on Book Search privacy says: “For example, people who use institutional subscriptions, such as students at subscribing schools, will not have to register with Google to read the millions of books available through the subscription. They only need to confirm their identity to the school’s system — not ours.” This ought to be an easy commitment for Google to make in whatever suitably binding fashion will make everyone relax.

Third, the ULC wants to protect first sale and fair use rights. The potential conversion of copyright’s permissive rules—sections 107, 108, and 109—into restrictive licensing regimes has been a big concern for libraries. The ULC’s proposed mechanism is interesting, and somewhat limited; they want limited free printing rights for their users. I wonder whether there will be librarians or others pushing for stronger affirmative reader rights.

The ULC also included the “public domain” in this section. As their letter states, “The proposed settlement provides for Google to collect a per-page charge for limited printing from the database, whether the book in question is covered by copyright or not.” I think that’s a misreading of the settlement. The {per-page fee]( for printing from the Public Access Service applies to “Display Books.” But “Display Books” is defined in terms of “Book.” And “Book,” in term only means a book still in copyright.

Fourth, the ULC wants public-library representation on the Registry’s Board. I doubt the parties will offer that, as such, but my (totally unscientific) hunch is that we’ll see some further announcement in the next month about the Registry’s governing structure. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn about a specific library “advisory board” or some such.