Friday, October 31, 2008

Google Settlement

The settlement of the legal dispute between Google and US publishers and authors is quite remarkable.

It's hard not to read it as a virtual total capitulation by Google. They have agreed to cough up US$125 million to establish an organisation called the Book Rights Registry which will manage the creation and exploitation of all the digital rights involved in Google's scanning of library holdings. Google will retain 37% of all revenues collected through the commercial exploitation of the book content, including from advertising on Google's display pages. Part of the money will also be paid in compensation for scanning that has already taken place prior to this license (permission) being in place.

Google's claim had always been that it didn't need permission under the Fair Use provisions of the US Copyright Act. The impending litigation was to settle that.

Either Google realised its case was weak, or it has played it smart and bought a seat at the table for what is shaping up as one of the biggest games around.

The Book Rights Registry reminds me of our own Copyright Agency Limited (CAL). Both are non-profit collecting and distributing entities and the boards have equal weightings of author and publisher members. CAL's distributions to content owners last financial year were well over A$100 million. The US model could be distributing very large sums indeed once it gets up and running.

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