Thursday, September 10, 2009

Congress examines the future of digital books



Our Senior VP for Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond is testifying this morning at today's House Judiciary hearing on "Competition and Commerce in Digital Books", and here's some of what he'll say about the Google Books settlement:
  • Nothing about the settlement changes our firm belief that copying for the purpose of indexing is a fair use that is encouraged by existing copyright law precedents.
  • The settlement is structured to make it easier for anyone – including Google’s competitors – to clear rights and license out-of-print books. Nothing in it makes it any more difficult for others to license these books.
  • The settlement mostly affects only a very small segment of the book world – in-copyright, out-of-print books, which represent less than three percent of the commercial book market. Even though commercial demand may be low, we still believe it’s important to our culture and our literary history for people to be able to find and read these books, and for rightsholders to be able to market and sell them.
  • The settlement is a strong complement to, and not a substitute for, orphan works legislation, which Google supports. An “orphaned” book is an abandoned book. Many out-of-print books, however, are not abandoned, and the registry created by the settlement will resolve legal disputes between authors and publishers over digital rights for older books.
You can read David’s written testimony, letters of support written to the court, what people have been saying about the settlement, and the full settlement agreement.

We believe strongly in an open and competitive market for digital books. That’s why we worked hard with authors, publishers, and libraries to create a settlement that will provide rightsholders with choice and compensation, lower barriers for other entrants, and complement orphan works legislative efforts.

UPDATE (11:25 a.m. ET): I'm at the hearing, and David just made a new announcement as part of our commitment to a competitive market for digital books.

He announced that for the out-of-print books (including orphan works) being made available through the Google Books settlement, we will let any book retailer sell access to those books. Google will host the digital books online, and retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore will be able to sell access to users on any Internet-connected device they choose. Retailers can also pursue their own digitization efforts of out-of-print books in parallel.

In essence, this extends our initiative announced earlier this summer -- which allows publishers in our Partner Program to market their in-print works through Google Books -- to out-of-print books included in the settlement.

UPDATE (9/11/09): Check out the video of David's testimony below.

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