Samuelson Highlights Fundamental Flaws of GBS

One of the leading voices and informed advocates for the public interest in the GBS debate, UC Berkeley law professor Pamela Samuelson, has just published “Google Book Search and the Future of Books in Cyberspace.”

In the piece, she covers the landscape of the current proposed settlement debate and articulately describes the fundamental flaws of the settlement – walking through the “nightmares” that the GBS poses for publishers, library and academic researchers, professional authors, and readers.

The paper also details the legal flaws with the deal, including its monopolistic results:

“…Google will have a de facto exclusive license to commercialize all out-of-print books through the class action settlement; no one else can realistically expect to obtain a comparably broad license to make out-of-print books available in the current legal environment (e.g., in the absence of orphan works legislation that would allow others to scan such books.”

Plus it includes insightful analysis on how this deal fits into Google’s larger business strategy of leveraging its market dominance in search:

“The GBS database is just that: a vast resource of additional data that Google can use to refine its search technologies and further entrench its market dominance in the search market. Yahoo! regards Google’s data advantage from GBS to be unfair because Google would be obtaining its de facto exclusive license to GBS books through a misuse of the class action procedure.”

“No other profitmaking firm will have access to GBS or a comparable database of books to make nondisplay uses that would enable them to make competing translation tools.”

Prof. Samuelson, like many stakeholders, views a public guardian alternative to be a preferred approach that will protect the public interest rather than the private commercial interests of a few:

“It would be socially desirable for there to be a digital corpus of twenty or so million books from major research libraries that would be available through institutional subscriptions at reasonable prices, which would be run by a consortium of nonprofit educational institutions, not by Google or any other for profit firm. This proposal would be desirable regardless of whether the GBS settlement is approved or disapproved. … Development of this corpus should be publicly funded—a kind of Human Genome Project-like initiative—and implemented by the major research libraries themselves working in cooperation with one another.”

We support and echo the views of the U.S. Department of Justice and advocates like Professor Samuelson that have dedicated so much passion and energy to telling the truth about the vast negative consequences of the settlement being approved.

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Important Dates

December 14, 2009
Notice begins

January 28, 2010
Deadline for authors to opt out of the settlement

January 28, 2010
Deadline to file objections and/or amicus briefs

February 4, 2010
Deadline to file notice of intent to appear at Fairness Hearing

February 4, 2010
DOJ response

February 11, 2010
Plaintiffs move for final approval

February 18, 2010
Final Fairness Hearing

March 31, 2011
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