Monday, September 07, 2009

Google agrees to European concessions

On the day that the European Commission opens discussions into the Google settlement and the eve of the deadline for filing objections, Google have confirmed that two non-US representatives are to sit on the governing board of the Books Registry that will administer the deal, with full participation on advisory committees.

Google have also confirmed that books available in Europe but out of print in the US will be treated for the purposes of the settlement as "commercially available". What this means in practical terms is that such books can only be displayed with the express permission of rights holders.

This appears to be an open acknowledgment that the settlement is not just about the rights of US authors, but does as I previously wrote, affect authors throughout the world, who are not subject to US law.

These landmark concessions have been made in an effort to placate authors and publishers outside the US who have become increasingly angry and vociferous in the last few weeks, with justifiable cause.

In addition to the two European Directors to be appointed to the board, a third European, Michael Healy is expected to serve as the Book Rights Registry’s first Executive Director.

The move has welcomed by the Publishers Association in the UK. Simon Juden, PA chief executive said: "This represents significant progress on two of the key issues the PA has raised with Google concerning the settlement. As so many of the affected works are non-US works, it is important that the BRR board reflect this."

He added: "Arguably a much more important point is that the definition of commercial availability needs to include UK-specific concerns when rights may not have been sold into the US. We are very pleased that Google has accepted our recommendations to work with UK meta-data on this."

A Google spokesperson said: "We listen carefully to all concerns of stakeholders around the globe and work hard to achieve the common goal of bringing back to life millions of lost books in a way that serves the interest of all." Let's hope that this time it actually means something and that these are not hollow, empty words.

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