End Google's Partnership Program with Publisher

The recent Authors Guild settlement of $250 million against Google for copyrighted materials scanned off out of print library books is just the start of Google's encroachment on author's legal rights. Under their Partnership Programs with a good number of presses they are entitled to print 20% of an author's book, ostensibly for promotional reasons. In fact, Google has in fact displayed entire books on line, in clear violation not only of the Partnership Program but the author's copyright as well. On the legitimate site, Google is openly ambitious about spreading literary by putting a million books on line, and certainly offering the classics that are in the public domain would help. But as it is, Google is making an open assault on creative rights, one where they feel that they can hop around a book, posting, for example, the first 20% for a while, then the last 20%, revealing the entire book bit by bit. Authors and their agents should take a firm line to blue-penciling the partnership program clauses out. Not only is there no evidence that undirected reading promotes authors' sales, the real danger lies in readers from film production houses who prowl this "free" material, looking for ideas and characters for good stories. Outtakes from my Spike Halleck novels ended up as scenes in the film The Fugitive and film teacher David Freeman has reams of similar reports. So, for those of us who have made and still want to make money, protect your rights. Stop Partnership Programs.

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Comment by David L. Hoof on June 29, 2009 at 2:23am
For John's comment: In a perfect world, a perfect settlement. The Authors Guild fell into the nasty worldly trap of doing nothing, letting Google get away with it except for individual suits, and trying for a knock-out win in court (remember Mammet's The Vedict). Most attorneys like to minimize risk and maximize out of court results. $250 million is not chump change. Also note that Google did not accept blame, but did not contest the charges either. Their $250 million settlement did not close the door, except for those who participate in the class action. It would be silly for an author who made, say $150,000 per book to join the suit, because the formula of compensation and punitive damages would earn him $300,000 from Google because Google has set the precedent for "implied" fault by settling at all. One of the points of blogs -- their real power -- is to spread outrage and change practices among the damaged -- the author. You don't need a formal collective to say "blue pencil the Partnership Program clause or compensate me monetarily for lost sales." The basis has long legal rights from English law in Elizabethan times and the clear intent of all copyright legislation since has been the protection of the author's right, not the publishers.
Comment by David L. Hoof on June 28, 2009 at 8:13am
Let's not confuse ourselves by assuming that Google isn't 'big money,' nor that stepping on present toes might damage the ability to wear future shoes, but the Authors Guild deal did, decidedly, omit a great number of authors whose injuries were, indeed, the most severe -- potentially -- in the commercial realm. It also created an immediate hurdle to damaged authors who might want to take issue through the courts because most copyright lawyers are expensive and want their cut up front, whereas the average income of a paid fiction writer is (this figure may be out of date, but not far off) about $5,000 a year. Financially this means that most self-funded suits will stop not for want of merit, but for lack of capital. So this grows into a big money-small money deal, and historically the only way the small guy (or gal) has exerted effective leverage is collectively. Hence, this Franklinesque plea that if we don't hang together, we will certainly hang separately.
Comment by John Dishon on June 28, 2009 at 8:11am
The Author's Guild showed its true colors and royally screwed authors with the settlement. If they really cared about authors, they would have sued Google contending that Google did not have the right to put up other people's work. Instead, the Author's Guild settled, something neither side had the right to do. This is why I don't trust trade groups, including the RIAA and MPAA.
Comment by I. J. Parker on June 28, 2009 at 7:55am
The problem is really with the Author's Guild deal that was struck without consulting authors. Apparently agents and publishers signed off on that. I was under considerable pressure from my agent to agree to the proposed conditions. It boggles the mind that no one objected with legal means to the copy right breach that started the whole thing.
Comment by David L. Hoof on June 28, 2009 at 6:47am
Unanimity would help. All authors just saying no would be tantamount to writers striking in Hollywood; the issue would need to be settled in authors' favor. Believe it or not, some intrepid and heroic lawyers, few in number and usually connected by alumni affiliation or personal relationship, believe strongly enough that the precedent of the Authors Guild settlement will reverberate through follow-on suits that they are willing to sue Google on a contingency-fee basis. The good news for protection of intellectual properties is that Google's bleeding has just begun.
Comment by I. J. Parker on June 28, 2009 at 4:25am
Yes,we've covered this topic here, and I for one have opted to limit Google's access to my books.

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