GBS: Getting Out in Front of the Story


You may recall the Open Book Alliance’s widely quoted initial reaction to the amended settlement:

Today, Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers released their revised book settlement proposal in an attempt to fix the deeply flawed legal agreement. Open Book Alliance co-chair Peter Brantley said, “Our initial review of the new proposal tells us that Google and its partners are performing a sleight of hand; fundamentally, this settlement remains a set-piece designed to serve the private commercial interests of Google and its partners. None of the proposed changes appear to address the fundamental flaws illuminated by the Department of Justice and other critics that impact public interest. By performing surgical nip and tuck, Google, the AAP, and the AG are attempting to distract people from their continued efforts to establish a monopoly over digital content access and distribution; usurp Congress’s role in setting copyright policy; lock writers into their unsought registry, stripping them of their individual contract rights; put library budgets and patron privacy at risk; and establish a dangerous precedent by abusing the class action process.”

The digitization of books has the potential to unlock huge volumes of our shared cultural knowledge, and the Open Book Alliance supports efforts to make books searchable, readable, and downloadable. But there is a right way and a wrong way to accomplish this goal. The right path embraces openness, competition, and the public good. Last week, the Open Book Alliance issued a set of requirements that the new settlement proposal must adhere to in order be true to these principles. Most critically, the settlement proposal must not grant Google an exclusive set of rights (de facto or otherwise) or result in any one entity gaining control over access to and distribution of the world’s largest digital database of books. It is clear that Google has failed to meet these requirements.

Is it just me, or was this statement drafted without the benefit of actually seeing the amended settlement? It sports a telling lack of detail. I’m reminded of Dave Barry’s book report on “The Old Man and the Sea”:

‘The Old Man and the Sea’ is a short novel weighing less than two pounds written by the author Ernest Hemingway. It concerns an old man who becomes involved with the sea (or, as it is sometimes called, ‘the ocean’). As the book (‘The Old Man and the Sea’) unfolds, the author, Ernest Hemingway, writes about these two major themes - (1) the old man, and (2) the sea - and the things that happen to both the main character, which is the old man, and a major body of water, played by the sea, as viewed by the author, Ernest Hemingway, and as we reach the 106-word mark in this book report we can see that …

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