Bitterly Funny News out of the Publishing Industry

The Justice Department has some concerns about the Google settlement.  That’s not the “bitterly funny” part.  That’s the “ya think?!” part.

Here’s the bitterly funny part:

While Google agreed to share the revenues with the publishers and authors, libraries are worried that Google would have solitary and overwhelming control over access to “orphan books”—titles whose authors and rights-holders have essentially abandoned. Since there’s no other online entity with access to these abandoned books, Google could effectively raise prices for access to the collection and libraries would have nowhere else to go for them.

What’s so funny about that, you ask?  Well, where do you think Google got copies of these orphaned titles to scan in the first place?  I’ll give you a hint–it starts with “the” and ends with “libraries.”

Granted, it wasn’t all libraries.  The public library in Stillwater could not control what the library at the University of Michigan was doing.  And I was sitting in Charleston when the terms of the settlement were announced and, in my opinion, it was pretty obvious even then that even other academic libraries realized that a handful of the largest academic libraries in the country had signed a deal with the Devil that could mean the end of all of their existences.

But I’m still laughing a little bit because when publishers first found out about this academic library/Google set up and publishers said, “Um, excuse me.  There’s no interpretation of copyright law that allows a library to give our content to Google,” many, many libraries were like, “What?  We need digital archives.  It’s the wave of the future.  And information longs to be free.  So ‘fair use’ now includes us getting to let Google make digital copies of our collection.  What are you going to do about it anyway?  Be free, information, be free.”  Well, information might want to be free, but a bunch of folks, across the board, would like to be paid.  Including librarians.

And yet, here we are.  Having given Google the farm, it’s suddenly dawning on the folks that handed over the keys to the place that the folks who were complaining about the theft of their chickens were onto something, now that there’s no eggs.

6 thoughts on “Bitterly Funny News out of the Publishing Industry

  1. Yes. It was definitely not all libraries. Many of us predicted that the Google scenario was going to be a colossal PIA.

    I have only one nit to pick – “could mean the end of all of their existences.” – No. Only if you think libraries are solely about physical buildings warehousing print materials just for professors doing research about arcane things, and not a bunch of kick-ass people with superhero-like information-finding and instructional skills, providing evidence and support to businesses and doctors and everyone else with a need for current and quality information, who may be housed in a library building or on Mars (as long as there’s wifi). Ahem.

  2. Every damn day, I read the same crap over and over about people concerned over the Google deal. It’s getting really old. Some of us were concerned long before the deal was signed. As much as I’d love to point a finger and say “HA HA,” this is one situation where I don’t like being right.

    BTW, I speak only for myself, not for my employer. I don’t actually know my employer’s official stance on this matter.

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