On October 12, 2009, NWU President Larry Goldbetter wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in response to an OpEd written by Google co-founder Sergey Brin ("The Library That Lasts Forever," October 9). Brin praised the Google Book Settlement (GBS) and boasted of having copied "10 million [books] and counting." He forgot to mention he never got the authors' permission or that the settlement has been opposed by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Copyright Office. The letter as sent, which the Times did not see "fit to print," follows:
Google co-founder Sergey Brin describes the groundbreaking settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers in “A Library to Last Forever” (October 9) as “a win-win for authors, publishers and Google, [while] the real winners are the readers who will now have access to a greatly expanded world of books.” Fortunately, the Department of Justice, the U.S. Copyright Office, and an impressive array of creator, civil liberties, and anti-monopoly organizations don’t see it that way.
Scanning and digitally reproducing millions of copyrighted books and articles without the authors’ permission violates their constitutionally protected rights. Of the $125 million offered by Google, only $45 million is for writers—a ridiculously low amount to compensate authors of millions of books, especially given the number and seriousness of the copyright violations.
The settlement gives Google a license to reproduce a writer’s copyrighted work unless the writer specifically “opts out,” telling Google, “No.” No corporation should be able to profit from your work without first obtaining your permission in writing.
The settlement also sets up an unfair binding arbitration process to resolve disputes between writers and publishers, strictly on a case-by-case basis. It does not allow writers who were collectively targeted to collectively negotiate to settle these disputes.
At a status hearing on October 7, Google told U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin that a new agreement could be worked out in a matter of weeks, that involvement by other parties should be severely restricted, and that notification about the new agreement to enable authors to opt out should be kept to a minimum. These requests only underline what’s fundamentally wrong with this settlement that turns copyright on its head. We should take all time we need, and involve a broad range of voices to construct a library that will last forever, without violating the rights of the authors who have filled it.
President, National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981
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