Writers Groups Oppose Google Settlement - Media Decoder Blog - NYTimes.com
Writers Groups Oppose Google Settlement
By MOTOKO RICH
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A trio of writers groups has sent an open letter to members of Congress who are also authors, objecting to the Google book settlement that seeks to create a vast digital library of mostly out-of-print books.
The National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America wrote a letter objecting to the amended version of the settlement that Google and its partners, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, submitted to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in November.
The original settlement of a 2005 lawsuit over Google’s ambitious plan to scan and digitize books from major American libraries was reached in October 2008. But over the last year as Google and its partners moved toward court approval, many groups, as well as the Department of Justice, criticized the agreement.
In response to the criticisms, Google and its partners agreed to hammer out an amended settlement. The revisions submitted in November included a provision for the appointment of an independent fiduciary, or trustee, who would be solely responsible for decisions regarding so-called orphan works, the millions of books whose rights holders are unknown or cannot be found.
The revised settlement also gave the trustee the power, with Congressional approval, to grant licenses to other companies who also want to sell these orphan books.
In its letter, the three writers groups noted that many writers who could be affected by the settlement were “hugely confused” by the agreement. “It isn’t fair,” the groups’ leaders wrote. “There are millions of book authors in this country who could be locked into an agreement they don’t understand and didn’t ask for.”
They called for Congressional authors to contact officials in the Department of Justice and “implore them to continue their close scrutiny of this settlement.” A court fairness hearing is scheduled for Feb. 18.