Monday, November 16, 2009

Google Books drops foreign texts

Bowing to powerful legal pressure, Google Books is dropping foreign texts from the archive. In concession to the numerous foreign governments and bodies that have been asking for changes to the deal Google pushed through the courts, Google Books will contain only texts published within the U.K., Australia, Canada, and those that fall under U.S. copyright. Named plaintiffs in the settlement now include authors in the U.K., Australia, and Canada, who'll gain representation by the Book Rights Registry Board in order to acquire their share of cash from Google. The Rights Registry is also required to actually seek out authors "who have not yet come forward" from now on--it's amazing that this wasn't the case beforehand. The modified deal even adds a legal representative for unclaimed or "orphan" books; the rep is charged with protecting author's rights. Also in the deal is more scope for authors who want their books to be available for free (rather than sold via Google's partner companies) and who wish to tag them with creative commons or other licenses.

Google's original plan effectively gave them the authority to do what ever they wished with millions of published texts. That it was a U.S.-based settlement that covered books published everywhere raised objections from authors and rights bodies outside the U.S. This "settlement" should appease those interests, but will also result in many useful and valuable foreign texts being excluded from Google Books.

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