Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Google bamboozle hits pothole

Google bamboozle hits pothole

By Walter Haan, www.war-books.com, www.southfarmpress.com

Reported by The New York Times on March 22, 2011: “Google’s ambition to create the world’s largest digital library and bookstore has run into the reality of a 300-year-old legal concept: copyright.

“The company’s plan to digitize every book ever published and make them widely available was derailed on Tuesday when a federal judge in New York rejected a sweeping $125 million legal settlement the company had worked out with groups representing authors and publishers.

“The decision throws into legal limbo one of the most ambitious undertakings in Google’s history, and it brings into sharp focus concerns about the company’s growing power over information.”

Thank God Google was stopped. I am a publisher of nonfiction history books and have been for 27 years. To me the biggest questions were, "What is an orphan book?" and "Who decides if a book is an orphan?" Is it an orphan because Amazon.com, the seller of record, no longer carries an older book even though the original publisher is still offering it on its Web Site? All of our in-print books published prior to 2005 were suddenly dropped by Amazon in 2008 and the site only offered used copies at inflated prices from other sellers, even though we still had an inventory of new, unsold books we were selling to museums, or online, at book shows and air shows. I have greatly feared that because Amazon.com or bn.com didn't offer older books any longer new from the original publisher, in this case Southfarm Press, that Google and others would jump to the conclusion that the books were out-of-print and ripe for Google to digitalize. Google pushed this with us, asking wouldn't we like it if we could make money from their digitalized, sold copies? The answer was and is no. We'd rather sell our inventory. We made the mistake of signing up for Google Books, a program where Google digitalizes and shows a few pages of each book for potential customers, along with Google advertising, from which we would supposedly share in the revenue. From what I have seen over the years, we are owed 12 cents by Google and we haven't been paid even that. Since 1984, my late wife and I have published Southfarm Press books and we were totally "at risk" for everything, the editing, publishing, you name it. The last thing I want is for an Internet behemoth to swoop in, cut us out and make money from our hard work. The judge's suggestion that publishers and authors must "opt in" instead of "opt out" from Google's massive usurping of the intellectual property rights of others is a good idea.

Finally, I’m not against offering digitalized books using our print books as their basis. But, we should be the ones creating these ebooks and profiting from them along with our authors, not Google. I understand Google offers its employees at its headquarters near San Francisco free gourmet lunches every day. Dishes like rack of lamb. Google’s staff has gotten fat on free goodies. Let’s not let them get fatter by gobbling everyone else’s intellectual property rights. --Copyright © 2011 by Walter Haan, www.war-books.com, www.southfarmpress.com

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