Today it was announced that Google has reached a settlement in the lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publisher, and a group of individual authors.
Some of the details are available at Google. The changes that I am the most interested in are these:
"Until now, we've only been able to show a few snippets of text for most of the in-copyright books we've scanned through our Library Project. Since the vast majority of these books are out of print, to actually read them you'd have to hunt them down at a library or a used bookstore. This agreement will allow us to make many of these out-of-print books available for preview, reading and purchase in the U.S.. Helping to ensure the ongoing accessibility of out-of-print books is one of the primary reasons we began this project in the first place, and we couldn't be happier that we and our author, library and publishing partners will now be able to protect mankind's cultural history in this manner."I'm all for more access to these books and for rightsholders to get their due, but what does it mean to assign a value to them?
"The agreement will also create an independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry to represent authors, publishers and other rightsholders. In essence, the Registry will help locate rightsholders and ensure that they receive the money their works earn under this agreement. You can visit the settlement administration site, the Authors Guild or the AAP to learn more about this important initiative."
They also plan to offer subscriptions: "We'll also be offering libraries, universities and other organizations the ability to purchase institutional subscriptions, which will give users access to the complete text of millions of titles while compensating authors and publishers for the service." I have mixed feelings -- the subscription model is not an unusual one, and libraries have certainly provided digitized materials from their collections for paid subscription services before, i.e., with ProQuest. I wonder if the partners will get any share in the compensation for providing the content for the service?
I'm currently at an Open Content Alliance meeting and I'm looking forward to what I am sure will be many discussions among the attendees today.
EDIT: There's now a joint press release from the University of Michigan, the University of California, and Stanford University, a FAQ from the American Association of Publishers, a Google rightsholders site, a Google blog post, in addition to the site above and the press release.