Friday, September 11, 2009

Google makes further concessions

Google must be positively squirming under the weight of criticism from all quarters, as they appear to have made yet another concession regarding the proposed settlement with authors and publishers, this time aimed at retailers who claim that this will create a monopoly, with Google the only company permitted to sell these works.

An article in todays Times states that yesterday Google offered an olive branch to such critics, by stating that it would allow competitors such as Amazon, and even High Street stores to resell their ditisised books. How this will work when such titles are downloaded and not sold in disc form, is unclear. In contrast, The Bookseller states more clearly that other retailers "will be be able to sell access to users on any internet-connected device they choose". This seems to suggest that these other retailers will in effect be agents for the Book Rights Registry.

Google made the concession at a hearing of the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee called to discuss objections to the proposed settlement. They claimed that this was an extension of an earlier initiative to allow publishers (which will of course include the self published who have formed their own companies) who have joined the Partner Program to market their in-print works through Google Books.

Google have scanned more than 10 million books already as part of their project to index what has been described as the world's forgotten literary heritage. They aim to create a "treasure trove" of information in the form of forgotten and out of print books which will be available to anyone with an Internet connection. This has attracted heavy criticism from all quarters, not least of all authors and publishers, which has not been confined to the US.

Despite the objections, David Drummond, Senior Vice President for corporate development and Chief Legal Officer, stressed that the settlement "mostly {either it does or ot doesn't} affects only a very small segment of the book world", which Google estimates at less than 3 percent of the commercial book market. "Even though commercial demand may be low, we still believe it's important to our culture and our literary history for people to be able to find and read these books, and for rightsholders to be able to market and sell them." On that at least, we can agree.

The proposed settlement will be discussed next month in New York.

No comments: