Authors' Groups Write Congress About Google Book Settlement

Posted on January 7, 2010

Three writers groups have sent a letter to 60 members of Congress listing their reasons for opposing the Google Book Settlement. The National Writers Union, The American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Science Fiction Writers of America sent the letters to members of Congress who are authors.

Here is an excerpt from the letter:

The ramifications of the amended settlement for any one author and any one book are exceptionally complex. We've talked to our members, authors like yourself. The ones who got the notice found it incomprehensible and just shook their heads in confusion. Go to the settlement website's poorly implemented database and see for yourself how tricky this is -- has your book been scanned? Is it commercially available? Should you opt out? If you do nothing, you're automatically included in the settlement. If you opt out, Google doesn't even guarantee that it won't steal your work in the future.

It isn't fair. There are millions of book authors in this country who could be locked into an agreement they don't understand and didn't ask for. The Authors Guild represents only a tiny fraction of published writers, yet the new regulatory board set up in the proposed settlement will override individual book contracts -- not to mention common law and even the Constitutional protection of copyright. Mary Beth Peters, Register of Copyrights, testified before the House Judiciary Committee that the settlement would "turn copyright on its head." Nothing in the revised U.S.settlement changes that.

We haven't heard word whether President Obama, who is also a published author, received a copy of the letter.

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