There is a lot of brouhaha going on right now about the Google-Authors’ Guild settlement for Google’s digitalizing of books. It brings up a whole lot of feelings and facts, and since there is a deadline Friday for opting out of the settlement– that is, preserving your right to sue Google on your own– there are suddenly many emails and articles.
Here’s what I know and think at this point, as I have been following it somewhat desultorily. National Writers Union (which opposes the settlement, I think) and the Authors' Guild (who instigated the lawsuit and settled with Google) have been sending out information. The bottom line is that you still own your copyright, and you can withdraw your work from access via Google's digitalized library at any time. The September 4 deadline is about your right to litigate against Google on your own, not about your copyright.
The settlement, as I understand it, will include payments from Google's advertising as well as initial payments to copyright holders in many cases. I've gone online and listed my books officially with Google and claimed my rights. You can do this at any time, now or later.
The copyrights are still ours, unless our publishers claimed them (one of my university press publishers claimed one of my books, which means I'll have to split any fees with them). If you have every written anything, and you look your name up, whether you've published books or not, you're likely to find articles from scholarly and semi-scholarly publications with your work in it already scanned.
Is Google making a grab? Of course-- they want to be the source of all the digitalized information in the world.
Do authors still own our rights? Absolutely.
Will we be compensated appropriately for the use of our works? We'll be compensated, but probably not appropriately.
Is this a bad thing? I don't like International Octopus reaching its tentacles out over the world, but I like very much having information and literature available to everyone-- especially my own previously obscure articles and books.
For a popular FAQ explaination, go here:
Also, my brother-in-law David Weinberger has written a lot about copyright in general, and here’s a nice piece he did for tucows: http://tucowsinc.com/news/2009/08/copyrights-creative-disincentive/
Carol Barry-Austin and I made a presentation about the Community Coalition on Race to new teachers in the district.