Is Another Suit Against Google Book Search Coming?

I think so.

Google has arbitrarily stepped in as an uninvited third-party to put “in print” thousands (perhaps millions) of books that have been out of print.

Being out-of-print is grounds for an author to demand a reversion of rights granted in the original contract.

That basically ends the business arrangement between writer and publisher.

The publisher took a commercial chance, it didn’t work out, the book was never kept alive, it stopped earning money, and the writer should have all rights reverted and be free to make commercial deals elsewhere.

Google has upset this equation by putting those books back “in print” and has suddenly jeopardized the future livelihoods of thousands of writers as we enter this age of eBooks.

Publishers holding contracts that long ago should have reverted can now claim grounds of works being “in print” even though those damned publishers never did the deed themselves.

And what’s more: they probably never, ever intended to do that deed, either!

I really don’t give a damn what a limited author’s group and a limited collection of publishers have agreed to.

Neither one of them speaks for me. Neither one of them can speak for any other writer who is not party to this agreement.

Google is going to find itself having to negotiate with individual writers for the rights they mistakenly believe they have been granted by this “settlement.”

This is a settlement only between Google and those two parties.

The two parties suing Google do not at all have the right to speak for every writer out there.

I foresee writers getting together and filing suits either singly or in groups.

That big 67% to “rightsholder” is still bullshit, when it comes to conventional book contracts. Some of these contracts will not contain provisions for electronic rights and I’d damn well bet money that publishers are going to dole out only the printed book royalty rate — and the lowest rate they can get away with too.

That 67% should bypass publishers who have kept works out of print — that money justly belongs solely to the writers.

Google, stop dancing around your desks.

This isn’t over.

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6 Comments on “Is Another Suit Against Google Book Search Coming?”

  1. Mike:

    Your concern is understandable if that is in fact what will happen as a result of this agreement. However, this issue does seem to be addressed. See section 4.7 on New Revenue Models. From the agreement:

    “(a) Print on Demand (“POD”) – POD copies of Books distributed by third
    parties. A Book’s availability through such POD program would not, in and of itself,
    result in the Book being classified as Commercially Available. ”

    My reading of this agreement (so far) is that it won’t do anything to re-revert rights back to a publisher if the rights have already reverted to the author.

  2. mikecane Says:

    >>>it won’t do anything to re-revert rights back to a publisher if the rights have already reverted to the author.

    My point is, when the bastards had something out of print, the contract should have *automatically* reverted.

    Now I’ll be in a knife fight with my former publisher.

    Bet. On. ME.

  3. Hey, try being a self-publisher. The Settlement was negotiated without my knowledge, consent, input, or any connection with the parties involved. But it applies to not only every holder of a US copyright, but to copyright holders in all countries that signed the Berne agreement.

    If Google has scanned one of the books I put a year or two into writing and several tens of thousands of dollars into producing, what compensation do I get for their copyright violation? A whopping $60/per title! Oh, and no extra for multiple editions (hardcover, softcover, etc.). There’s no guarantee of protection of the e-files, and there’s no assurance of how much income I’d get. And speaking of reversion of rights, Google asserts the right to grab the rights to any book that’s been out of print for a year. If you do get reversion of rights to your titles, I strongly advise you to do a small POD run instantly–even if you intend to find another publsiher–and assert loudly to the industry that the book is in print.

    I’m opting out of the Settlement. And yes, I think it not unlikely that Google will ignore opt-outs, distribute those copyrighted books anyway, and try to outspend their opponents in the further class action suits that will be filed against them.

    Google is trying to take over the publishing industry–BTW, the settlement also says they can publish POD books, not just e-books–the wholesaling function, and the bookstore function, in one fell swoop. The extent of their robbery is just breathtaking.

    Yes, I’m going to opt out of the Settlement. I’m going to fight Google if they steal my work anyway (I fervently hope like-minded people will join me). But I certainly have moments when I think, if Google is just going to steal my work and either not pay me or force a pittance on me after a legal battle, why am I bothering to write or publish anything? It’s not like writing or running a small press is all that lucrative anyway, but Google thinks it’s just fine to reduce my income and control my work so they can make a fortune off it.

  4. Oh, another comment. Re a POD run being “commercially available.” Look, if you enter the book as “in print” in Books in Print, say it’s for sale on your website, and don’t tell _anyone_ whether it’s a POD book or offset printed, no one will know it’s POD, including Google.

  5. Walt Shiel Says:

    As I posted this morning to the Self-Publishing group:

    “Of course, we really should separate what is legal from what is right and moral. The two rarely coincide. And that, in my opinion, is the crux of this whole issue. I believe what has been determined legal is morally bankrupt and reflective of “big money” interests controlling the debate.

    “This should never have been accepted as an opt-out agreement. That is just wrong. Google should have been made to wait for non-public domain rights holders to opt in. Anything else only proves that the Bastardized Golden Rule applies in our courts — those with the gold make the rules.”

    I’m still researching this but tend to agree with Frances. I suspect we at Slipdown Mountain Publications LLC will opt out…even though, by rights, Google should have to ask us to opt in.

  6. […] The Google Book Robbery: I’m Not Alone The Great Book Bank Robbery Is Another Suit Against Google Book Search Coming? […]

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