Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Monday, November 16, 2009

Revised Google Book settlement: what it means for OA

Google and the plaintiffs in the Google Book settlement released their revised settlement on November 13; see the proposed Supplemental Notice. The change most directly related to OA is this:

... The Amended Settlement provides that the Registry will facilitate Rightsholders’ wishes to allow their works to be made available through alternative licenses for Consumer Purchase, including through a Creative Commons license. ... The Amended Settlement also clarifies that Rightsholders are free to set the Consumer Purchase price of their Books at zero. ...

Some other changes also may be of interest:

  • Rightsholders can negotiate with Google to change the restrictions on their included works (e.g. to remove the DRM).
  • The Book Rights Registry can allow more than one free terminal per public library building.

Also of note is that many international books will be excluded. Whereas the original settlement included any books under copyright in the U.S. (effectively, any book published anywhere in the world), the amended settlement only includes books published in the U.S., UK, Canada or Australia, or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office.

The revised settlement also establishes an independent fiduciary agent to manage unclaimed works (where no rightsholder has stepped forward to manage the options under the settlement and claim payments). The Unclaimed Works Fiduciary is meant to act as a proxy for absentee rightsholders, but it doesn't have all the abilities of an actual rightsholder. Instead, the revised settlement enumerates some specific abilities for the Unclaimed Works Fiduciary, and provides that the fiduciary also can act "otherwise as the Board of Directors of the Registry deems appropriate".

The abilities enumerated seem to not include the options to set the price at zero, apply a CC license, or remove DRM restrictions. In other words, the Unclaimed Works Fiduciary apparently does not have the ability to make orphan works OA without the agreement of the Registry board (which is composed of publisher and author representatives). I've put in a question to the parties' press contacts to confirm or clarify this.

The plaintiffs' memo proposes a 45-day period for class members to respond, with an extra week for the U.S. Department of Justice, and the final fairness hearing two weeks subsequent. (That schedule would start after the judge grants preliminary approval to the revised settlement, which hasn't happened yet.)

See also: For more information, including the many aspects to the amended settlement which aren't discussed here, see the tag on the Open Access Tracking Project.