My Own Personal Grey

Really, I Could Have Done Without….

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The timing on the Google Settlement opt-out/objection deadline. I put it off before since I was at the tail end of copyedits, proofs, first conventions, and taxes. Now it has come back around and the deadline to say “fuck off and die” or “I’m going along with this, but I think it stinks” are coming up in 4 days. And I have a million things to do that are more immediate than the filing of yet more paperwork.

I don’t have a problem with the initial urge behind Google Books–really I don’t. What’s wrong with a highly detailed and accessible index? I’ve benefited from Google Books as a research tool, being able to look into the specific pages of a book that I thought might have been useful without having to buy it or toddle off to the library in person and waste everyone’s time only to discover the book was useless, or to reject a book that sounded useless only to discover later it had the info I needed, but had no way of discovering without reading every page. The index I don’t have a problem with and I don’t have a problem with the idea of a company who’s done a huge amount of work to make this index happen and functional making some money off their effort. I make (or hope to make) money off my efforts, too.

What I really don’t like is the way the index then morphed into an electronic sales and distribution net that has more rights and privileges over the material than the creator or copyright holder does. This is largely due to the settlement clauses introduced by the Author’s Guild, not by the action of Google. The immediate problem now is that there are only 4 days left to file the paperwork to say “this sucks” or opt out and be screwed until someone else takes Google to court (but not the AG for their ham-handed way of trying to “settle” the issue.)

I’m still not sure how I feel about the options, except that I don’t see how this can be legal: the Authors Guild does not represent me, I never gave them my proxy to act in my behalf on this, and “opt in by default” is not a legal standard. How can I be held to agreements to which I was no party and in which I had no proxy? How can the court legally defend giving my rights away to a group I don’t belong to and do not support nor receive any support from? I don’t want to be stuck in a bad business relationship with a pair of companies who have, without my permission or participation, effectively redefined copyright license and exercise in perpetuity, to their benefit and not to mine and without any consent or agreement from me. I can only hope the judicial review of the settlement in January throws the abomination out.

I have, and always have had, strong reservations about the Authors Guild. I’m not a member; I’ve never felt they truly had my interests at heart, and I’ve rarely seen them go after the issues that most worry me while they are still small–they tend to let it slide until the big money is on the line and then grandstand just like they have here (eg: they ignored the “audio” issue when it rested with Kurzweil in the late 1980s, but not when it was Amazon in 2009 and they still ignore that issue with Adobe’s Acrobat reader for Mac). Google I used to like quite a bit, but this situation is out of hand and they started it and then acted like royal tits when confronted with the ramifications of where they were headed. There just is no good end to this situation short of the judicial review throwing the settlement out as untenable, illegal, illconceived, and unconstitutional. Unfortunately, I don’t think they will, but if they don’t they will have handed the defining and licensing of copyright to two commercial entities with special interests.

Looks like I’ll be getting even less done this week than I’d hoped….

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