Is Google Books Settlement ‘Legislating from the Bench?’

The Open Book Alliance kept a close eye on yesterday’s Google Books Settlement hearing. Click Read more for some of their thoughts:

From our notes, Rep. Johnson criticized the settlement as being a classic case of legislating from the bench, believes that the settlement will have a tough time withstanding a separation of powers review, and expressed concerns with the settlement’s antitrust implications. Fundamentally, Rep. Johnson commented that the scope of the settlement is most troubling, with a private settlement erecting Google as a gatekeeper.  He also cited the lack of consumer protections outlined by some witnesses as an area of concern.

It was a fitting end to what shaped up to be an informative hearing with knowledgeable witnesses on a subject that everyone – Congress, consumers, authors – needs to learn more about.

Ten Years Ago Today, Internet and Media Changed

Wired reports on another Sept. 11 anniversary date, which is Sept. 11, 1998, the day that Congress released the infamous Starr Report detailing the relationship between President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Click Read more for details.

For the first time, if you didn’t have the net, you were missing history — in this case, the salacious details of the 42nd president’s sexual escapades with 22-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky. A lot people missed it. When Congress released the 445-page Starr report, the word blogosphere had yet to be coined and Twitter was still a sound made by birds.

While presenting monster technical difficulties for government, web surfers and the media, the report’s online release shed light on what the mainstream media would never publish: the details of Clinton’s sexual escapades in the White House that led to the first perjury and obstruction charges against a sitting U.S. president since the 19th century.

U.S. Copyright Office Doesn’t Support Google Books Settlement

The United States Copyright Office is weighing in on the Google Books/Authors Guild settlement controversy. From Yahoo! News and Reuters:

Google Inc’s plan to digitize millions of books as part of a class action settlement wrongly creates a virtually compulsory license for books, the U.S. register of copyrights said on Thursday.

 

Google Seeks to Help Newspapers Get Online Payment for Content

"’Open’ need not mean free," Google execs say. From Neiman Journalism Lab (tipped by Searchviz):

Google is developing a micropayment platform that will be “available to both Google and non-Google properties within the next year,” according to a document the company submitted to the Newspaper Association of America. The system, an extension of Google Checkout, would be a new and unexpected option for the news industry as it considers how to charge for content online.

 The news comes on the heels of a hearing over Google’s Books settlement with the Authors Guild. Some fear that the settlement will give Google monopoly control over the distribution and sale of digital books.

Google Stands By Books Settlement on Eve of Hearing

The Google legal team believes that the Internet giant’s controversial digitizing of millions of books and its legal settlement with the Authors Guild will pave the way for others to enter the digital book business, according to an article at Yahoo! News. A hearing on the Google Books settlement is scheduled for today.

When News Doesn’t Make News

Editor & Publisher‘s Greg Mitchell reports on how and why the media kept silent about the kidnapping of a New Y ork Times reporter in Afghanistan. The reporter was freed just hours ago. Full story is available at E&P. The New York Times report of the kidnapping and rescue operation is now online as well.

Farrell with his aide Sultan Munadi were seized on Saturday and freed just hours ago in a daring raid by British commandos. Munadi and a commando were killed. Farrell is fine (see other stories on this site).

Are Pixels Greener Than Paper?

Bill Reusch has some surprising insight:

The brochure I have on my desk in front of me asks the question, Are Pixels Greener Than Paper? I never really thought about it, but if I had I suppose my answer would be, “Of course, pixels are greener than paper.” After all you don’t have to harvest a tree for a blip on the screen.  Right? Well I was surprised to learn:

 

Smashword Publishers Get Wider Distribution for eBooks

From Joe Wickert’s Publishing 2020:

If you thought the eBook market was hot before, it just went super nova with Smashwords newest distribution to "major online retailers, the first of which is Barnes & Noble and their various properties including Barnesandnoble.com, Fictionwise, and their eReader app."

Smashwords is an eBook publishing service that is free for authors and publishers. Readers can purchase eBooks contributed by authors and publishers through the Smashwords store.

One of these things is just like the other…

Guest post by my wife Paula

Lately I’ve been seeing more and more book and CD covers on the very amusing web site, totallylookslike.com. What’s behind this severe case of deja-vu? Stock Photography. While sites like istockphoto and stock exchange have made quality photography available to even the author on a budget, there is a pitfall to using these images. 
 
Everyone else on the planet can use them too!
 
It’s sort of like showing up at the party of the year, only to find three other ladies wearing the same dress.
 
While a great image can set the tone for your entire book, simply picking an photograph and plopping some text on top of it is not design, it’s shopping.
 
Every book is unique. Shouldn’t their covers be?
 
Check out the following examples from Amazon.com: (click the Read more link):

Authors, Publishers Continue to Struggle With Google Books Settlement

I can’t proclaim any special significant knowledge of the legal system or whether Google’s plan to create a digital library from copyrighted material is a detriment to authors and publishers. The Writer Beware blog has a good account of one author who opted out of the now famous Google Books Search settlement and her reasons for doing so.

It’s not the display of bibliographic information, or even snippets, that I object to–it’s the possible uses the settlement empowers Google to make of my work down the road (including selling my books in electronic and POD form). If those uses were limited and clearly defined, I might not have a problem–but they aren’t, and I just can’t see allowing such a sweeping license to my work, where the implications of granting that license are so unclear.

Some more information about the Google Books settlement with the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild is available at The Guardian.