Tuesday, January 19, 2010

CAL Google Settlement Seminar

With the deadline of 28th January looming to opt out of the Google Settlement, I thought I'd better attend the seminar in Melbourne run by CAL at the State Library, to see how it would affect me...if at all.

The seminar was run by Karen Pitt, general counsel for CAL and her powerpoint presentation will be available via the CAL website by the end of the week.

For those in the dark, Google announced in 2004 that it was going to digitise the holdings of major US research libraries, without the permission of the rightsholders ie publishers and authors. Funnily enough the rightsholders objected and started a class action.

There is now a settlement on the table, whereby Google agrees to pay a one off payment to those whose works were digitised prior to May 5 2009. This absolves them from all liability for past scanning. As to the future, it depends on whether your book is classified as commercially available...which is deemed as being offered for sale new by a seller anywhere in the world to a buyer in the US, Canada, the UK or Australia. If it is commercially available,the default position is that the work is out unless rightsholders opt in.

One of the most useful parts of the seminar was the question time.

So...my question as primarily a picture book writer was...how does this affect me.
Copyright for the text of a picture book is retained by the author while the copyright for the illustrations is retained by the illustrator. Therefore, both author and illustrator must agree to opt in/out. If one doesn't, the most restrictive ruling applies ie if my illustrator says no and I say yes, then the work is not included.

After the seminar my next step was to find out whether or not my works had been digitised. So that's where I am right now, with another tab open on my browser. Come with me if you like.

I've typed in www.googlebooksettlement.com
I've been here before but it was a long time ago. I've got the option of creating an account but I take a stab at what I might have put in as a user name and a password and I'm successful. I must be so predictable.

I'm told I can now manage my claimed books and inserts. I click on 'find and claim'
and then enter my name and publisher. Up pops a list of my books, including paperback and hardback versions. The most recent book isn't listed.

Notably, I'm told that none of my books were digitised prior to May 2009. I'm not surprised as I doubt my Australian picture books would be found in a major US research library. There are now other libraries which are participating in the library project including Oxford University, but no Australian libraries. So that means that I'm not entitled to the one off payment.

I am however surprised to see the listing of The Music Tree as not commercially available. Hmm, I know it is for sale in some places and I disagree with this. We were told at the seminar that if a rights holder asserts that a book is commercially available, Google will not display the book unless it is commercially available. Now I'm going to put that to the test.

I tick the boxes and claim all the books listed.

Now I am on the claim form.I click on 'assert rights' for The Music Tree and am asked whether the rights have reverted to me...which they haven't because frankly it's not out of print. This is getting complicated.

I click submit and claim and I'm back to the main claim form. I certify that the book was published in one of the countries listed. Now I click on Claim and it confirms that I have one book claimed and five pending.

Next, click on Manage claims and inserts. Hopefully now I'm at the stage where I can tell them it's commercially available. If I don't change this then Google will be able to make all display uses for my book, including print on demand and public display at libraries (no different from my book being in a library anyway but I don't get PLR)

I click on the title of the book and come to the part where I can challenge the commercially available status. Interestingly on this page it states that I challenge that it is not commercially available in the US. This is possibly a throwback to the original settlement, whereas in the new settlement the definition has been widened. I'm asked to provide proof of my challenge. So I open yet another tab in the brower and go to amazon uk and find my book for sale. Sadly for my ego, it is reduced to £2.98. Strangely it lists the publisher as Orchard, not Lothian and the publication date as May 2008...did someone sell the rights overseas and not tell me??? I also go to Dymocks and find it at RRP with Dymocks on line. Hmm, if anyone wants a copy it's cheaper to have it shipped from the UK. How's that for book miles. I copy and paste these listings as proof that it is commercially available.

I now get to control the display uses. As the book was deemed not commercially available, Google has all the boxes ticked. I'm going to change them.

I tick Consumer Purchase, but specify a price of $US 28. I want to remove it from Public Access Service but this means I have to also remove it from Consumer Purchase, so I do so.

I select Preview, which means that it can be displayed as a marketing tool and I select the Fixed Preview option which means that only 10% of the book can be displayed. I also allow Snippet display, Front Matter display and Advertising.

There, I'm done.

For commercially available works, payment goes to the publisher and then flows on to the author via the agreement in the contract.

Apparently the ASA supports the ammended settlement saying that will 'provide income opportunities for authors of out-of- print books.

As the deadline for opting out approaches, I'm not going to opt out. As a picture book writer, I don't think the Google Settlement is going to affect me. My publisher is still the rightsholder for all my books. The advice at the seminar was to contact your publisher if you wished to discuss the status of your works. If the work is in print, both publisher and author must direct google and the process is initiated by the publisher. If the rights have reverted to the author it's a whole different ballgame.

Ahh, I hear children stirring, my time of peace is over. I must say however my two beautiful daughters deserve a medal for sitting through the seminar with me for over an hour. They did enjoy the meringues and biscuits afterwards though!


  1. Thanks Cat for such an informative blog post.


  2. woo hoo...someone actually read my blog! I'd better keep up my new year resolution then. Twitter here I come.