corporatizing copyright

Ursula Le Guin has some stones.  This whole Google digital books settlement is a bit complicated, but it boils down to something more than opting in and out for the authors.  It’s about signing away your authorship, and forcing companies like the great and powerful Goog to negotiate with you before you do so and not after they’ve been caught.  Le Guin says it better:

The “opt-out” clause in the Settlement is most disturbing:

First, it seems unfair that, by the terms of the class-action settlement, authors can officially present objections to the Court only by being “opted in” to the settlement and thereby subjecting themselves to its terms.

Second, while the “opt-out” clause appears to offer authors an easy way to defend their copyright, in fact it disguises an assault on authors’ rights. Google, like any other publisher or entity, should be required to obtain permission from the owner to purchase or use copyrighted material, item by item.

The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our Public Libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that. But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it. We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control.

Google has some stones as well, dictating the terms of their own settlement to authors of works they’ve digitized without consent.  Perhaps Google is trying to claim some sort of perverted sense of fair use by chumming with libraries to assist in their digitization without bothering to negotiate with authors and forking out the dough to buy the item they want to scan from Amazon or AbeBooks.

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