This is important stuff and is something that has been at the heart of my objections to the Settlement.

From the Open Book Alliance website:

Today, the Open Book Alliance released a comprehensive analysis that details how the proposed Google Books Settlement violates international laws and treaties.  A full version of the study can be found here.worldCynthia Arato, partner at the law firm of Macht, Shapiro, Arato and Isseries and a prominent litigator on intellectual property and copyright issues, finds that “numerous provisions of the proposed Google Books settlement would, if approved, violate the treaty obligations of the U.S.  If the settlement is approved, it may give rise to legal action against the U.S. before an international tribunal and will certainly expose the U.S. to diplomatic stress.”

For the first time, the proposed class action settlement between Google, the Association of American Publishers and the Author’s Guild has been fully evaluated to determine the claims and remedies that other nations may seek through the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the violations that an approved Google Books Settlement would incur.

Specifically, Arato found that:

“The settlement would (1) grant Google automatic rights to exploit digitally millions of books without requiring Google to obtain any authorization from any foreign copyright owner or author; and (2) require these foreign rights holders to jump through burdensome hoops simply to exercise a watered-down contractual right – that the settlement creates – to halt such use.”

Foreign nations that wish to challenge the U.S. over treaty violations of the settlement may do so before the World Trade Organization.  Violations can lead to financial penalties or trade sanctions against the U.S.  The governments of France and Germany have already formally objected to the proposed settlement.

But beyond financial penalties and trade disputes, we have to ask ourselves if we’re happy thumbing our nose at the rest of the world for the benefit of one company.  We suggest not.  There are alternatives to the GBS that will benefit a broader audience and welcome international partners’ contributions.


  1. I find it frustrating from a readers standpoint that everybody seems to be against Google making books available to the world. I understand some peoples worries that no private company should be in charge of this information, but there is no government in the world that is actually trying to remedy this situation to make things available. I just see agencies and groups trying to shut down access but not offer some other option to make this knowledge available. Another point I don’t understand is so many authors not wanting to even have their works searchable on Google. How can I ever find an authors content if I never get the chance to know they even exist. To my understanding authors can choose to only have limited pages displayed. Being able to look over pages in a book is exactly what happens in a book store before a reader can buy it, this is just a digital extension of that ability. I understand that some people are worried about the legal precedents and monopolistic power this may give Google, but it feels like people would rather burn down the library than allow any one person to claim sponsorship.

  2. It’s not about “making books available to the world”. It’s about how that’s being accomplished.

    The complaints are that first, Google gets to publish copyrighted stuff without permission. Well, until the copyright holder objects, at which point Google pays them $60. This rather undermines the whole point of copyright, doesn’t it?

    Second, that Google will have unconditional authority to publish copyrighted material contained in the books—photos, reprinted articles, artwork, maps, etc.—even if their copyright holders object, and those copyright holders will not be compensated in any way. Google is only required to recognize the copyright holder of the overall work.

    Third, and probably most importantly, that only Google is given this authority. If, say, Amazon wanted to do the same, they can’t. Nobody but Google will have the authority to publish copyrighted material without the copyright holder’s permission. If this is such a good idea, why can’t we allow multiple organizations to do it? Why just Google, hmm?

    Fourth, that Google is a commercial, for-profit corporation. Inherent conflict of interest.

    Fifth, that Google will have the sole authority to decide which books are to be published and which should be kept secret. Since Google will be the only entity with authority to publish the withheld books, Google has a censorship power that governments would love. Given Google’s history of complicity with censorship in China, we can only imagine.

    Sixth, that Google will have the authority to change the contents of the books, provided that the copyright holder agrees. Google gets to rewrite history, and nobody else is permitted to publish the original work to dispute Google’s version. Again, China.

    Seventh, that this whole thing is being done by a civil settlement—by two private organizations and Google getting together and saying “We’re going to give Google this unprecedented and monopolistic position”. It subverts the power of the Legislative and Executive branches of the US government to make and enforce copyright law.

    Eighth, and more of a matter of principle than of practice, that Google is not only “getting away” with its illegal behavior of having copied and published millions of copyrighted works without permission, it’s being rewarded for that bad behavior. Not just by being allowed to continue to do so, but by being given a monopoly position to continue to do so.

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