A Raw Deal for Libraries
One of the most surprising, even shocking, features of the Google-AAP-Authors Guild Settlement is how hard it is on libraries. Given that Google Book Search could not have gotten off the ground without the cooperation of various university libraries, it is particularly disheartening that the proposed settlement treats them with such an iron fist at the same time as it expects them to foot much of the bill through subscriptions. It will be interesting to see how many libraries continue as partners, given Google’s bait-and-switch.
Take for example the digital copy that Google gives to a library in exchange for scanning its copy of a book. Previously, all library partners were given digital copies. According to the proposed settlement, however, only “fully participating libraries” will continue to receive copies from Google. These are libraries that (1) continue to provide in-copyright books for scanning and that (2) enter into a new agreement with the Book Rights Registry releasing them from liability for copyright infringement in relation to the Google scanning project. All other categories of libraries will no longer receive copies in exchange and, to make matters worse, they will have to destroy the digital copies of in-copyright books they already possess or otherwise expose themselves to the implied threat of a lawsuit from authors and publishers over copyright infringement.
Yet even these “fully participating” libraries are granted only a few permissible uses of their copies (e.g., services for the disabled, replacement copies, five-page access) while other uses that are arguably fair use (interlibrary loan, use in e-reserves and course management systems) are strictly forbidden. Compare this to the former agreements. In Google’s 2006 agreement with the University of California, available here, the university was allowed to use the digital copy to provide (unspecified) services to its library patrons (section 4.10). UC was also allowed to “add value” to the copy and possibly charge a fee for its use (see section 4.9, “Use of University Digital Copy”). How far we have fallen… Fully participating libraries must now give up such benefits and, if that wasn’t sacrifice enough, they must also guarantee the security of their digital copies as laid out in a 17-page “security standard,” under the threat of fees up to $7.5 million for security breaches.
Libraries have made huge investments in the books that Google is digitizing. Not only did they purchase, process, shelve and care for the books, over many years, but they continue to carry significant overhead costs for their continued use (including Google’s use!). Much of this investment has been made with taxpayer dollars. And yet libraries receive 0% in this proposed settlement while Google gets 37%. What kind of partnership is this? Taxpayers should be alarmed that their money has gone to provide give me money a service that Google is exploiting on its own terms, in its own interests, with no monetary and little other return to the libraries.
By dangling the threat of future lawsuits, the settlement seems to be manipulating libraries into new legal agreements that 1) renege on the benefits of former agreements; 2) eliminate the digital copy for many libraries; 3) impose excessive restrictions on how remaining digital copies are exchanged; 4) impose harshly punitive security obligations; and 4) offer no revenue sharing or compensation for the libraries’ investments.
These new terms, we can presume, would not have been acceptable to libraries at the outset. Why should they be now?