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Old December 25 2009, 04:38 AM   #1
firehawk12
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Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

Someone linked this to me:
http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Note-AGResignation.html

I haven't really been following the Google Books thing to know all the details, but this seems to be a rather drastic move by what I would consider to be a well known author.

Has there been much fallout from her resignation from the Author's Guild?
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Old December 25 2009, 05:10 AM   #2
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

I don't understand what the "Google settlement" is.
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Old December 25 2009, 06:59 AM   #3
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

Quick summary:

Google worked with some libraries to digitize their collections and make them searchable. Google believed this was covered under "fair use." Well, publishers and writers got wind of it and threatened to sue. A settlement came out of this.

Writers/publishers can do nothing, and collect royalties for Google's use of their work. Or, they can opt out and not be included in Google's searchable collections.

The problem is that certain guilds, such as the one Le Guin resigned from, openly supported the settlement. Some writers are unhappy about this and feel that they are being betrayed by both guilds and publishers for a quick buck, rather than having their rights defended.
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Old December 25 2009, 07:10 AM   #4
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

Weeelll, just my 5c worth, but...

Google often claim their motto is "Do no evil". If so, they should make sure living authors benefit from the money that is coming to Google because of acess to the authors' works. They probably wouldn't notice a difference to the bottom line all that much if authors were paid, for example, a percentage of the same kind of payment an author receives from libraries (50%, +- 15%, I think).

OTOH, it's in the authors' interests to work out an equitable deal rather than just withdrawing, because this acts as advertising for the book. I know a lot of people would rather read a book than a monitor screen.

But that might just be me.
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Old December 25 2009, 07:32 AM   #5
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

Well, considering Google opted to settle rather than fight it out in court, it does seem like they want to be fair and not just stick it to the writers. If they'd really wanted to press the issue, they very well could have won on their definition of "fair use."

I don't see Google making a ton of money off of this in the first place. Rather, it's more likely to drive sales of books, so others will benefit from Google's activities here.
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Old December 25 2009, 12:25 PM   #6
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

Looks like all three of my books are on Google Book Search. Does this mean Google owes me money every time somebody takes a peek?
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Old December 25 2009, 02:17 PM   #7
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

I would have thought so.

Maybe you can find out what you get in return besides exposure.
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Old December 25 2009, 02:24 PM   #8
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

RJDonner&Blitzen wrote: View Post
Looks like all three of my books are on Google Book Search. Does this mean Google owes me money every time somebody takes a peek?
You can make money from Googling your own book.
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Old December 25 2009, 04:56 PM   #9
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

Okay, thanks for the problem in a nutshell. I agree with the authors on this one.
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Old December 25 2009, 05:02 PM   #10
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
Well, considering Google opted to settle rather than fight it out in court, it does seem like they want to be fair and not just stick it to the writers. If they'd really wanted to press the issue, they very well could have won on their definition of "fair use."
If their lawyers believed that was likely, they would not have settled. Litigants settle in order to avoid a worse outcome in court.

Le Guin, and anyone else who opposes this settle, is right.

Talking about the "clout" of writers unions and guilds in the United States, outside perhaps of the WGA, is something of a joke (the WGA works, to the extent that it does because of its tight associations with other unions and guilds in the same industry).
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Old December 25 2009, 06:06 PM   #11
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
Well, considering Google opted to settle rather than fight it out in court, it does seem like they want to be fair and not just stick it to the writers. If they'd really wanted to press the issue, they very well could have won on their definition of "fair use."
It's worth pointing out that "fair use" is an affirmative defense. If you argue "fair use," you're admitting that you're infringing on someone else's copyrights, and you have to explain why it's okay for you to do that. As Dennis points out, Google settling in this instance indicates that that they were probably on shaky ground, and they may not have prevailed on the "fair use" argument in court.
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Old December 25 2009, 06:52 PM   #12
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

Australis wrote: View Post
I would have thought so.

Maybe you can find out what you get in return besides exposure.
I'm happy for any exposure, but I'll definitely look into this a bit.

AdmiralGarak wrote: View Post
RJDonner&Blitzen wrote: View Post
Looks like all three of my books are on Google Book Search. Does this mean Google owes me money every time somebody takes a peek?
You can make money from Googling your own book.
That would rock. Something tells me it's not so easy, though.
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Old December 25 2009, 08:32 PM   #13
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

RJDonner&Blitzen wrote: View Post
Looks like all three of my books are on Google Book Search. Does this mean Google owes me money every time somebody takes a peek?
I suggest you go here to find out your options and the particulars of compensation. You still have time to opt out.
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Old December 26 2009, 02:15 AM   #14
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

^^ Thank you very much for that link. It looks like I can opt out or Google does indeed owe me some money. Not much, but a little. At this point, I'm leaning toward thinking that it does me more good to be on there.
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Old December 26 2009, 05:38 AM   #15
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Re: Ursula K Le Guin's open letter against Google

It's such a shame that it has come to loggerheads like this. I think the Google's digital library is a great idea. They did, indeed, fuck up by putting up copyrighted material first and then beg for forgiveness after, though--given how incredibly stodgy the publishing industry is--I don't doubt that they thought this was easier than asking permission, even with the ensuing legal complications. But the settlement, though not perfect, makes some good redresses and more importantly sets out a workable plan for future collaboration (if, indeed, both parties would actually collaborate).

As a writer, I see this as a plus. A Google-based digital library/store would provide unheard-of access for writers to reach an audience, and enormous choice for consumers, to say nothing of being paired with one of the most efficient search engines out there. Full disclosure: this would obviously be a better deal for small-time, independant authors like myself, who have rather limited print runs and even moreso geographical distribution in brick-and-mortar stores, than it would for major authors the the backing of a publishing house.

As a researcher, Google Books has proven an unexpected boon. A couple months back, I needed to access a rare text; even a few years ago, that would have entailed going all the way out to Ann Arbor, spending a day or two in UMich's rare books section to get what I thought I would need, since after I leave I can't consult the text anymore. Now, a fully scanned original edition (complete with typesetting errors and marginalia!) is available with only a few keystrokes from my homepage. That kind of ease of access is a thing of beauty.

Obviously, this was a text no longer in copyright, but even contemporary works can benefit from this. The scope, refinement of the search engine, and ability to glance at select pages make it so much easier to locate useful texts, without spending hours spelunking through the library network in the hope of finding a copy (particularly troublesome for out-of-print works still in copyright), or blind-ordering a book only to find it far less useful than the abstract would have led you to believe. Obviously, steps need to be taken to protect the digital library from piracy or prevent pernicious practices like reading an entire copyrighted book in chunks of preview by switching terminals, but it's a program full of promise which, I think, we should work at perfecting to make it fair (pegging price increases at inflation?) rather than opposing altogether.

Fictitiously yours, Trent Roman
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