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The National Writers Union announced Thursday it opposes last October's settlement of lawsuits pitting Google against the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The horse it's trying to lasso might seem long gone from the barn, but the agreement is still under review in federal court. The NWU's delegates assembly met last weekend in Chicago and decided to take this stand.
Ideally, Google would like to make every word ever published available to the public via its Google Book Search. Copyright has been the formidable obstacle standing in the way. The October settlement agreed on a way to provide greater, but still limited access to books that are out of print but still in copyright, and Google pledged $125 million to create an independent Book Rights Registry that would locate and compensate copyright holders whose books are accessible online.
But the National Writers Union, representing about 1,500 freelance writers, isn't buying. President Larry Goldbetter calls the settlement "grossly unfair to writers" because Google winds up with "monopolistic control over access to many previously published copyrighted books and materials." What's more, Google can "collect and sell information about the reading habits of individuals.”
Goldbetter says, “By scanning and digitally reproducing millions of copyrighted books and articles without permission by the writers, Google violated authors’ constitutionally protected rights. According to our understanding of the proposed settlement, writers whose copyrights were violated might receive a check for between $60 and $300 for each book and $15 per article. Compared to the number and seriousness of the violations, the amount being offered by Google to each writer is ridiculously low. Also, of the $125 million offered by Google, only $45 million is for writers. This seems way short of the amount needed to compensate authors of millions of books.”
The NWU claims the settlement gives Google "a license to reproduce a writer’s copyrighted work unless the writer specifically tells Google to remove his or her work from the program." Says Goldbetter, "Google is essentially saying ‘we are going to steal your work and sell it under terms we dictate unless you tell us not to.’ A corporation, no matter how powerful, shouldn’t be able to profit from your work without first contacting you and obtaining your permission in writing.”
The complete NWU statement is here.