For those of you not familiar with this situation, Google has been trying to work a deal with authors and publishers that would let them create a gigantic online library. That sounds like a good idea but Google is finding there is a lot of red tape surrounding this. Back in 2005 many authors and publishers accused Google of copyright infringement because they scanned many libraries full of books. The big issue the government is concerned with is whether this is violating anti-trust laws. The investigation is still ongoing but Google released a statement saying:
The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers said the Department of Justice filing 'recognizes the value the settlement can provide by unlocking access to millions of books' in the United States... We are considering the points raised by the Department and look forward to addressing them as the court proceedings continue.
The Justice Department had this to say: "The settlement appears to give book publishers the power to restrict price competition" and would give Google "de facto exclusivity" in distribution of orphan works, books which are in copyright but the rights holder cannot be located.
The department noted that the settlement allows the Book Registry to license these works and to then distribute the money.
The department said in its filing,
The structure of the proposed settlement, therefore, pits the interests of one part of the class (known rightsholders) against the interests of another part of the class (orphan works rightsholders).
In my opinion, something like a massive digital library of books is overdue and in theory it's a good idea since books are written to share and provide information furthering knowledge on its subject matter. Unfortunately, it's not a practical idea since there could be countless licensing issues that could leave their library rather incomplete and also how the money will be distributed is an even bigger issue.
Does Google have a right to make money on orphan books? If not, can you justify a way to publish the works without permission even if it's free? Tell us what you think.