Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Google Settlement - more money for writers?

Over the past years Google has been systematically scanning library books and making the digital copies freely available on the internet. The potential implications to writers, the impact on their sales and the thorny issues of copyright resulted in legal action and a recent settlement in the US.

In essence the settlement creates a new market for out-of-print books. It establishes a new not-for-profit organisation that will be controlled by authors and publishers. This will be called the Book Rights Registry. They will collect revenues from Google and distribute to registered copyright holders. Google will fund the initial set up of the Book Rights Registry and future costs will be taken from the overall revenue.

Issues to consider:
  • Out-of-Print: Google focus on scanning out-of-print books and only include in-print with the consent of author/publisher. However, what is meant by ‘out-of-print’ is vague.
  • Revenue split: Google keep 37% of revenue and forward 63% to the Book Rights Registry. If the book rights have reverted to the author they will receive 100% of this revenue (minus BRR admin fee). If rights not reverted then it’s a 50-50 split between author and publisher (minus BRR admin fee). If book published before 1987 revenue split is 65% author, 35% publisher (minus BRR admin fee).
  • Source of Revenue:
  1. License to educational establishments
  2. Individual users
  3. Advertisements
  4. Printouts.
  • Non-US countries: It is still unclear how this agreement will impact on non-US countries.