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About this weblog
Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this weblog are those of the authors and not of their respective institutions.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

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December 31, 2013

Author's Guild Remains Out of Touch with Reality

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

In a move that should surprise approximately nobody, the Author's Guild has announced it plans to appeal against the the Google Books decision that came down last month. They are also unhappy about printing presses, but decided to defer action on that issue.

It has become increasingly obvious that a move to lock away knowledge because somewhere there might be someone who some day might somehow profit from it is stupid, regressive, a waste of peoples' time and money, and on and on. People of all sorts - not excepting Author's Guild members - benefit from the trove of research materials. If the Author's Guild has concerns (as I do) about giving too much control to one entity doing the digitizing work then it would behoove all of us to negotiate better terms with that entity rather than continuing to drag this thing through the court system.

Sadly, we live in a world where no one speaks for us. The Guild fights for what it thinks its members ought to have, and Google makes the commercial decisions it expects to bring the most benefit. If one or the other of those things happens to be good for the public domain that's at best a fortunate accident.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Markets and Monopolies


COMMENTS

1. Anon on December 31, 2013 10:30 AM writes...

Care to explain how this "negotiation" is supposed to take place given that Google's position (which has this far prevailed) is that it can do what it is doing without permission from the authors? Google got 100% of what it wanted without paying a dime to the authors -- why in the world would it "negotiate"?

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2. Alan Wexelblat on December 31, 2013 1:26 PM writes...

Google would negotiate because life would be easier with the cooperation of all parties. Litigation is expensive.

This isn't novel - people and companies and entities settle cases all the time, including as they're being appealed to higher courts. One side has been judged a victor in court but realizes it can get a better deal by negotiation versus continued fighting.

Permalink to Comment

3. Anon on December 31, 2013 4:11 PM writes...

Google has more than enough money to litigate this to the ends of the earth. And they have already fought -- and won! -- the most expensive part of the case. (Appeals are relatively cheap.) Before the district court's fair use ruling, they had some incentive to settle (and in fact they did, though the settlement was disapproved by the court), given the uncertainty. But now that they've won (at least at the district court), they have virtually no incentive to settle. And if their victory holds at the Second Circuit (which I'm sure they expect), they will never have to negotiate with pesky authors -- they can simply continue with this project without having to pay them a dime.

Permalink to Comment

4. Alan Wexelblat on January 2, 2014 10:34 PM writes...

You write as if I was asserting that Google will settle. I have no idea what their plans are - I was simply pointing out that it makes no sense for the Guild to continue litigating this to the detriment of its own membership. Continued appeals also carry risk as the higher this goes the wider the precedential value of the decision, if upheld.

I think it's indisputable that cases do get settled after trial verdicts are in, sometimes even as they are being appealed. It's also indisputable that a settlement carries less risk and less cost than litigation; otherwise, there would be no settlements, ever.

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