ASJA's wish list for the Google Book Settlement 2

New York, October 7, 2009

ASJA’s wish list for the Google Book Settlement 2: Keep it legal, use an “opt in” — and please! — scrap that unnecessary registry

On November 9, 2009 the world will be getting a new version of what the Justice Department says is the most far-reaching class action settlement ever, the Google Book Search Settlement. The settlement grew out of the Authors Guild suit against Google for digitally scanning millions of books without the permission of copyright holders. Google now has scanned more than 10 million books.

This morning (October 7, 2009), Judge Denny Chin of the District Court of the Southern District of New York gave Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers just 33 days to craft a settlement plan that passes the Justice Department’s scrutiny.

Last month, Justice attorneys told the court the first settlement was too legally flawed to approve, calling it more “a forward-looking business arrangement than a settlement of past conduct.” The parties agreed to try again with Justice Department help.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) vigorously opposed the first settlement. ASJA is represented by the Washington DC law firm Kellogg, Huber and is part of a group of individual writers and the National Writers Union collectively known as “the Bloom writers” in opposition. Along with libraries, other writer groups, civil liberties groups and corporations, ASJA also is part of the Open Book Alliance.

ASJA would like to endorse the new settlement.

  • We hope this version will be legal. Violating reams of copyright, anti-trust and class action laws is counter-productive, to say the least.
  • We hope the new version allows interested writers to opt in, rather than requiring every writer southeast of Venus to opt out or be trapped in the maw.
  • We hope it will use the registry we writers already have, The Authors Registry, and skip creating an unnecessary new one. Give the money to writers instead, please.
  • We hope the payout for writers is bigger than the lawyers’ take.
  • We hope orphan books become the property of We, the People of the United States. Or at least, not go to Google exclusively as their reward for stepping on millions of writers.
  • If Google still gets the orphan books, we trust the parties will include a pledge to record them for the seeing-impaired (a promise that suddenly appeared in a last-minute publicity surge to save the first, failed settlement).

ASJA represents professional freelance nonfiction writers.