Dear Sisters in Crime:
*As you may know, in 2004 Google undertook the task of scanning (digitizing) the contents of several cooperating libraries and, in some cases, displaying snippets of the books, including books still in print or protected by copyright law, on the Google website. Google did not ask permission from rightsholders to do this. In response, several authors and publishers sued Google, claiming copyright infringement. After several years of negotiations, the parties agreed to settle the lawsuit out of court. As part of the settlement, Google agreed to pay a minimum of $45 million to compensate rightsholders whose works were scanned without their permission as of May 5, 2009. The settlement created a new non-profit organization called the Book Rights Registry, which will maintain a database of rightsholders and collect and distribute Google revenue to the appropriate rightsholders.
What does this mean for you? If you own a copyright interest in a book or short story or illustration published on or before January 5, 2009 that was reproduced or displayed by Google, then you are entitled to a claim under the settlement, and you can do any or all of the following: You may claim (that is, identify yourself as the rightsholder to) your materials. You may claim a payment for any materials that Google digitized on or before May 5th, 2009. This payment is estimated to be in the range of $60 per book. You may request that your materials be removed from the Google database or that your materials not be scanned/digitized. You may include or exclude your materials from various display uses as defined by the settlement. By claiming your materials and participating in the settlement, you are making yourself eligible to receive benefits from the settlement. However, you relinquish your right to sue Google or any participating library for digitizing and displaying your materials without your permission. Please note that if you do nothing, you will be bound by the terms of the settlement.
I don’t want to be part of the settlement. What do I do? If you opt out of the settlement, you will not receive any of the settlement’s benefits, but you retain the right to pursue action yourself against Google if you choose. To do so, visit http://www.googlebooksettlement.com, and follow the instructions to opt out. The deadline to opt out of the settlement is May 5, 2009.
What are the benefits of the settlement? If you remain in the settlement, you may be entitled to additional revenues from Google’s use of your material. You can determine how and to what extent Google can store/reproduce your work. And, you may be due a cash payment (the aforementioned $60) for the use of your work without your permission.
Is there any easy way to tell if I’m due a cash payment? Yes. See What do I do next? below. When you claim your materials, the settlement website will tell you whether or not a book has been scanned or is scheduled to be scanned.
Additional revenues! Tell me more. When you become part of the settlement, you are authorizing Google to continue to digitize or scan material, sell subscriptions to their electronic books database to institutions (libraries), sell online access to individual books, sell ad space on web pages featuring books, and display parts of a book (up to 20%) in a preview format (similar to Amazons search-inside-the-Book feature). Google will pay 63% of the money generated by these uses to the Book Rights Registry, who, after retaining an administrative fee (thought to be between 10-20%), will disburse the money to the appropriate rightsholders.
How much money are we looking at here? Small sums will be accrued from printing fees and from advertisements. Full online access to a book will generate between $1.99 and $20.99 (median $5.99), a price that the author/publisher can change later. Institutional licensing has the most significant economic potential. Google plans to provide unlimited access to their database to colleges and universities for a flat fee based on the number of students and faculty. This flat fee will be distributed to rightsholders in two ways: first, a straight $200 inclusion fee for any book included in the database, and potentially an additional prorated fee depending on how much the material is accessed as a whole of the entire database. This money will be further broken down as follows depending on whether or not the book is in print:
If the book is out of print and the rights have reverted to the author, the author receives 100% of the income, minus the Registry’s fee.
If the book is out of print but the rights have NOT reverted to the author, the income is split 50-50 between the author and the publisher.
If the book is out of print but is an older title (published before 1987), the income is split 65-35 between the author and publisher (author’s favor).
If the book is in print, the split depends on the terms for electronic and display rights in the contract between author and publisher.
What do I do next? Visit http://www.googlebooksettlement.com to begin the process of claiming your materials or to opt out of the settlement. You will create an account by registering a username and password. After that, the claim procedure is straightforward and generally only requires that you provide a title and author for the work in question. Once you have created an account, you will use it to manage the ways Google can use your materials.
What if I can’t go online? You may opt out of the settlement by sending written notice by First-Class Mail, postage prepaid, postmarked on or before May 5, 2009 to the Settlement Administrator, at: Google Book Search Settlement Administrator c/o Rust Consulting PO Box 9364 Minneapolis, MN 55440-9364
Alternatively, you may request that a paper claim form be sent to you by calling 1.888.356.0248.
Are there any deadlines I should know about?
The deadline to opt out of the settlement is May 5, 2009. The deadline to claim a cash payment for the digitization of your material is January 5, 2010. The deadline to have your material removed from the Google database is April 5, 2011.
How can I learn more? Visit any of the following resources for more information, or if your question isn’t covered here.
Google Books Settlement FAQ
Author’s Guild Vs. Google Settlement Resources Page
Google,AAP, Authors Guild: Joint Public FAQ
Vice president, Sisters in Crime
*This information comes from the Association of Artists' Representatives.