Google Settlement Information, Documents, News & Links

I'll will post below documents, links, news and other information associated with the Google settlement dispute. Because I am writer, I will pay particular attention to issues important to writers. And although I live in Seattle, I will pay also pay particular attention to developments overseas, especially in Europe.

The key fact to remember about this settlement is that, unlike many other decisions in U.S. courts, its impact is not limited to U.S. citizens or people living in the U.S. The focus of the settlement is on the U.S. copyrights held by anyone living in the U.S. or any of the some 160 countries having copyright treaties with the U.S. Wherever you live, if you have ever authored a book, even one that has not yet been published, or if you plan someday to write a book, the settlement will impact your rights under copyright. Also keep in mind that, because of its large immigrant population and large size, the United States is one of the largest markets in the world for books written in languages other than English.

Because of this broad reach, drastically reducing the copyright protection accorded virtually every writer in the world, the response from overseas may well determine whether a federal district court judge in New York City approves this settlement or rejects it as overly broad and a violation of the international copyright treaty obligations the U.S. has made with almost every other country in the world.

If those are your interests, you might want to bookmark this page. In general, I'll post the newest links at the top, while downloadable documents related to the dispute will be in oldest-to-newest chronological order at the bottom of this webpage.

The Google Settlement & Writers Outside the U.S.

Those who live outside the United States should not think that the pending Google settlement does not apply to them. In almost all cases it does. If you have a copyright in a country that has a Berne Convention agreement with the U.S. (and almost all countries do), then you have what the settlement calls a “U.S. copyright interest,” meaning you automatically own a U.S. copyright thanks to those treaties.

Normally, that’s a good thing. In this case it is not. If a district court in New York City approves this settlement, and you do not take formal, legal steps to opt-out of the settlement by a court-established date, then you will be included in the settlement and will lose most of your rights to sue Google for copyright infringement in a U.S. court. That is very serious.

You will find much of that explained in a FAQ that Google has posted, although the implications are often obscured by the complexity of the agreement and the use of technical terms such as “U.S. copyright interest.” Here’s one of the relevant passages, question and answer #9 in that FAQ. Notice that the three bullet clauses are connected by an implied “or.” If you meet one of the conditions in bullets you are included in the settlement and will be automatically subject to this agreement. Here’s what Google says:

9. I am not a United States citizen, or I live outside of the United States. Am I included in this Settlement?

Yes, most likely you are. If you are a citizen of another country or live in another country, you are likely to own a U.S. copyright interest if:

• Your Book was published in the United States;
• Your Book was not published in the United States, but your country has copyright relations with the United States because it is a member of the Berne Convention; or
• Your country had copyright relations with the United States at the time of the Book’s publication.

You should assume that you own a U.S. copyright interest in your Book, unless you are certain that your Book was published in, and that you reside and are located in, one of the few countries that have not had or do not now have copyright relations with the United States. The Copyright Office has published a list of countries with which the United States has copyright relations, available at If you have further questions about whether you own a U.S. copyright interest in your Book or Insert, you can contact Class Counsel, who are the attorneys representing the Settlement Class. Their names and contact information are on the Notice. You may also seek advice from an attorney or a rights organization in your country.

Google FAQ

Needless to say, all authors or copyright holders who are U.S. citizens will be bound even more tightly by that settlement. They must formally opt-out by Friday, September 4, 2009, or they will be automatically be opted in. This is not something you can safely ignore.

Settlement Links and Documents

LINK: The Financial Times (UK) has an August 12, 2009 article on "European Publishers target Google," which describes the growing opposition to the Google settlement in Europe. Follow the "Analysis: A plan to scan" link at the end of the article for an overview of the settlement dispute including statistics about the number of books involved. (Free sign up is required to view the articles.)
LINK: The July 24, 2009 issue of the Boston Globe has an article on the concern many librarians and others have that "Google will end up with the monopolistic control of access to millions of scanned digital books."
LINK: (In English) The Japan Times has an excellent July 22, 2009 article on "Google Books Leaves Japan in Legal Limbo" by Tomoko Otake. It notes that Japan's publishers were long "in the dark" about Google's plans and that now that they know, they feel frustrated because they feel that have little chance of winning if they contest the settlement: "Raising an objection means that you will have to file a suit in the U.S.," the editor said. "That means hiring a lawyer that would cost up to ¥500,000 a day. That cost alone is making (most publishers) wary of opting out." They could use some legal advice, however. It costs nothing to opt out other than the labor costs of entering the data. For a large publisher with many books, however, the data entry may be considerable and publishers can legitimately question why they have to spend money to keep Google from doing what it has no legal right to do under the Berne Convention.
LINK: (In German) Welt Online interviews German Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries on various Internet issues, including the Google settlement, which she notes is "not compatible" with German law. Copyright law varies from country to country, so the real issue is whether the settlement is compatible with treaties the U.S. has signed with other countries, since those treaties are binding on a U.S. court.
LINK: (In English) This links to a computerized translation of the Welt Online interview with German Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries. A German source has told me the ministry has hired a NY law firm to help them oppose the settlement.
LINK: (In English). If you're following the links I have been posting here, you know just how clueless Mark Gimein, the author of this Reuters' editorial is.
LINK: (In German) An article in Handelsblatt (Dusseldorf) describes the investigation the German government is conducting into the Google settlement.
LINK: (In Japanese) The Japan Visual Copyright Association is wrestling with developing an Asian response to the Google settlement, placing them roughly where Europe was two months ago. You can find links to stories at this website.
VIDEO: (In English) In late February, Georgetown University held a excellent Scholarly Communication Symposium on "Google and the Future of Higher Education" with back-to-back speeches by Siva Vaidhyanathan and James Grimmelman. Both were initially excited about Google's plans, but have become more skeptical and critical. Just keep in mind that their focus was on the academic and legal issues, so they say little about the implications for authors or the international copyright treaty ramifications. At the linked page, either click on the picture to stream the video to your browser or use the "Download from iTunes U" link to get a MP4 file.
LINK: (In English) The Ottawa Citizen has an excellent article on the Google dispute, describing the fear and confusion that Canadian writers feel about it. Having had five books in Google's earlier (and legitimate) book search program almost from the beginning, I'm more skeptical than they are about the advantages of being in any Google book search program, least of all one as bloated with millions of quickly scanned books as Google's latest scheme.
LINK: (In English) reports that the EU competitiveness ministers are about to ask for an investigation of Google's digitization plans and the Google settlement. A few weeks ago I noted that only the German government seemed aware of what was happening. Now France, Austria and the Netherlands are "also said to be keen to have the issue put on the table." For European politicians, I suspect this is an issue they can't lose on. I just hope they don't get so focused on competitiveness, that they neglect the more critical copyright issues.
LINK: (In English) Andrew Albanese has an excellent overview of the domestic issues surround the Google settlement at Publishers Weekly. Missing is the issues the settlement raises outside the U.S.
LINK: (In English) On May 12, 2009, German minister Bernd Neuman spoke to other EU officials in Brussels about a "worrying development" as Google's behavior clashes with, "our understanding of European copyright law, which for good reasons, the consent of the author before using a digital presupposes." This link is to an English translation (by Google Translate) of a press release about that meeting.
LINK: (In German) This is the German original of the press release by German state minister Bernd Neuman.
LINK: (In English) In the interest of balance, here's a link to a revealing statement about the settlement on the Google Public Policy Blog. Notice that only Google Book Search users in the U.S. will be able to display books covered by this settlement. Those outside the U.S. will find that what Google calls their "experience" of Book Search won't change. That's Google's rather slippery way of saying that you won't be able to view the books in this settlement online if you aren't in the U.S. That's why it is undeniable that all the other countries in the world will lose if this settlement is approved by a U.S. court. Major portions of books by their writers will be available online for free in the U.S., but books by U.S. writers won't be available for display in their country. That's because this settlement only applies to U.S. copyrights, those either formally granted in this country or automatically granted by treaty agreements with other countries. The most bizarre aspect of this settlement is that by simply applying for a copyright in their home country, a writer will automatically lose much of their copyright protection in the U.S.
LINK: (In English) Mary Minow of LibraryLaw Blog comments on what the settlement means for foreign authors. She notes that, "The largest group of non-active rights holders are likely to be foreign authors."
LINK: (In German) A May 7, 2009 article on the Google settlement by Burkhard Hess, Director of the Instituts für Ausländisches und Internationales Privat- und Wirtschaftsrecht at the Universität Heidelberg.
LINK: (In German) A May 6, 2009 article on Open Access, an alternative to a Google monopoly, by Michael Hagner of the Wissenschaftsforschung und Wissenschaftsgeschichte, ETH Zürich
LINK: (In German) This is a May 5, 2009 article that I wrote for the Frankfurter Allegeime, one of the most respected newspapers in Germany. In it I explain the settlement's controversial use of American class action law to a European audience. The German title is "Google und das Urheberrecht Alles hängt jetzt von Europa ab." There is an English-language version for which I am looking for a publisher, particularly in the UK. I'll let you know when it appears in print.
LINK: (In German) A May 2, 2009 article about the Google controversy in the online edition of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Zurich, Switzerland).
VIDEO: (In English) An almost thirty-minute interview with Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive on the Google Settlement, particularly its anti-trust implications. If your time is short, there is a transcript beneath the video. It summarizes the long-term implications of the settlement so well, that those who want to help people in their own country understand the settlement might get permission and subtitle it in their own language. Highly recommended.
LINK: (In English) Here's an article I did for Teleread. Judging by a Google search I did the day it appeared, it was the first to break the story about a letter I and six other writers (or their representatives) sent to the court managing the lawsuit against Google and requesting a four-month delay in the settlement schedule. You can find our letter below along with the judge's order agreeing to our request below. And yes, it is easy to be one of the first to break a story when you are one of those creating that story.
LINK: (In English) An appeal to the German government to take a critical look at the Google settlement that has now been signed by over 1600 writers.
LINK: (In English) "German Authors Outraged at Google Book Search," an article in Spiegel on April 27, 2009. At present, over 1600 German writers have signed the Heidelberg Appeal, asking for the German government to oppose the Google Settlement.
LINK: (In English) "Google's Book Settlement is a Rip-Off for Writers" by Lynn Chu from the March 28, 2009 issue of the Wall Street Journal. If you are a writer, this is a must-read.
LINK: (In English) An article published by the American History Association on "Google Books: Is It Good for History?" by Robert B. Townsend. It criticizes the accuracy and hence usefulness of Google's mass scanning.
LINK: (In English) Has information about the settlement and copies of the legal documents available for download. The FAQ is particularly helpful for making sense of the long and complex settlement.
PDF: Here's the September 2, 2009 letter I've sent to the judge in the Google settlement dispute. In it I pay special attention to the harmful impact the settlement will have on the average author. Feel free to post or pass this letter on.
PDF: (In English) Here's a copy of the information note that Germany provided the European Competitiveness Council for meetings on May 28-29, 2009. Hopefully, the council will clarify its thinking before acting. The settlement concerns U.S copyright, and thus what Google can display to Internet users in the U.S., where Google plans to make available major portions of orphan texts without the consent of the copyright holder. German/European copyright law only applies to what Google displays to users in Germany/Europe, which is short 'snippets.' So, it's not European copyright law that's the central issue. It's the copyright law embedded in international treaties that the U.S. has signed. This settlement must conform to those treaty obligations and it cannot do so without being radically altered, ending the forced opt-in provisions of the so-called class action.
PDF: This is the court's "Preliminary Settlement Approval" signed by Judge John E. Sprizzo and filed on November 17, 2008. Note especially item 23. It states that "any Settlement Class member" who does not formally and through their lawyer object to the settlement by the May 5, 2009 deadline will find "any objection" that they might make thereafter "deemed waived and forever barred." That "forever barred" date has been delayed to September 4, 2009, but it still remains in force.
PDF: The letter that DeVore & DeMarco filed with the court on April 24, 2009 asking for a four-month extension in the May 5 automatic opt-in date for the Google settlement. Most of the seven authors or their representatives are writers of fiction.
PDF: The letter that Pamela Samuelson of UC-Berkeley School of Law filed with the court on April 27, 2009, asking for a six-month extension in the May 5 automatic op-in date for the Google settlement. It describes the objections that 16 prominent academic authors have to the settlement. Their request for a six-month extension may have made it easier for the judge to approve a four month extension.
PDF: Judge Denny Chin's April 28, 2009 order for a four-month delay in the May 5 automatic opt-in settlement date. The new date is September 4, 2009.
PDF: Comments the American Library Association filed with the Google settlement court on May 4, 2009.
PDF: The Berne Convention is one of the treaties governing U.S. copyright law. This is a copy of that treaty distributed by the World Intellectual Property Organization.