Photo groups file suit against Google

7 04 2010

Well, several photo groups, along with some photographers, have filed suit against Google regarding their google books project.

I won’t repeat what has been said in the various articles. You can read about it:

In the New York Times;

On the ASMP website;

Read the complaint itself.

One thing I will say is that the recent Supreme Court ruling of Reed Elsevier v. Muchnik has paved the way for this case.

Here is why.

Many of the photographers covered  in the Google Books photographers class action suit have likely not registered their copyrights. This means that they could not bring suit themselves and still get statutory damages. But in the Muchnik case, the Supreme Court ruled that the court can still have jurisdiction over a copyright case in a class action, even if the members of the class covered by the settlement have not all registered their copyrights. Of course the google suit asks for statutory damages for each infringement, and a court is not likely to award statutory damages for infringements where the copyright is not registered. But getting a judgment and getting a settlement are two entirely different things. The way is now clear for a settlement.

Photographers should be aware of the danger of class actions suits. Google may get hit in the pocket book, but there is always a risk that photographers who aren’t in the original suit will not see much of the money. Here’s hoping that the photo groups don’t let that happen.


After taxes- Google books deadline looms

15 04 2009

As you finish up with your tax deadline, another important deadline is looming.

The Google Book settlement with the Author’s Guild has May 5 opt out deadline. That is a less than 3 weeks.

What does this mean to you?

Well, if you want to be a part of the settlement, you don’t have to do anything. But you need to make a couple of decisions.

1) Your first decision-does this affect me as a photographer? It may or it may not. According to the Google Settlement Page FAQ’s:

The settlement covers:

“all persons and entities that, as of January 5, 2009, own a U.S. copyright interest in one or more Books or Inserts that are “implicated by a use” authorized by the Settlement.”

“Photographs, illustrations, maps, paintings and other pictorial works in Books are covered by the Settlement ONLY when either (a) the U.S. copyright interest in the pictorial work is owned by a person who is also a copyright owner of the Book containing the pictorial work or (b) the pictorial work is an illustration in a children’s Book (see below). For example, if a copyright owner of a Book on photography is also a copyright owner of photographs in that Book, those photographs are covered by the Settlement. However, the Settlement does not cover any other photographs in the Book whose copyright is owned only by persons who are not copyright owners of the Book. Similarly, if a history Book contains a series of maps where the copyrights to those maps are owned only by persons other than a copyright owner of that history Book, those maps are not covered by the Settlement.”

2) If you believe you are covered by the settlement, you have a second decision. Do you want to participate?

How do you decide if you like the deal or not. Well, you have to know what google is authorized to do under the settlement AND what benefits you will receive. According to the Google Settlements FAQ page (run by Google), the following applies:

  1. “What is Google Authorized to do Under the Settlement?
    Under the Settlement, Rightsholders authorize Google, on a non-exclusive basis, to:

  2. Cash Payments. Google will pay a minimum of $45 million to compensate Rightsholders whose works Google has scanned without permission as of May 5, 2009. Rightsholders of works Google has scanned without permission as of May 5, 2009 are eligible for Cash Payments, which will be at least $60 per Principal Work, $15 per Entire Insert, and $5 per Partial Insert. A “Principal Work” is the main work in a Book (that is, the part of the Book that does not include forewords, afterwards, footnotes and other material).”
    • Continue to digitize Books and Inserts
    • Sell subscriptions to an electronic Books database to institutions;
    • Sell online access to individual Books;
    • Sell advertising on pages from Books;
    • Display portions of Book in a “preview” format to encourage sales of online access to Books;
    • Display Snippets from Books; and
    • Display bibliographic information from Books.
  3. What Benefits Are the Rightsholders Receiving from the Settlement?

    • 63% of Revenues Earned in Google Book Search. Google will pay rightsholders 63% of all revenues Google receives from the commercial uses Google makes of the Books.
    • Establishment of the Book Rights Registry. Google will pay $34.5 million to establish and maintain a Book Rights Registry, to locate rightsholders and create a database of their contact information and copyright interests in Books and Inserts, and to collect revenues from Google and distribute those revenues to rightsholders, and for notice and settlement administration costs.
    • Right to Manage Books and Inserts in Google Book Search. Rightsholders will have the right to determine whether and to what extent Google may use their copyrighted writings.

My concerns about the settlement:

The Payment: $60 cash payment to scan your book and make it available online is not very much, compared to the purchases of the book which you will lose. While author’s will supposedly get 67% of the profits, it is not clear how they will determine who gets those profits or where the money from true orphan books will end up. Will they track the books that are read on their online service and distribute to those authors? It is important that there be a procedure in place that connects the use of each individual book with the author.

The Book Rights Registry: This should benefit creators. It is important that there be safeguards in the registry for privacy reasons. However, one of the main obstacles to paying creators is finding them, so this will definitely help.

What price will the the access be: This appears to be the million dollar question. While libraries are concerned about this number being too high (it currently costs $50 to access some law books on Lexis Nexis), author’s should be concerned about this number being too low. If someone won’t buy my book because they can get it online for $2, maybe I am losing a lot of money. Then again, maybe that is more than I would have gotten from a hard-copy sale. And maybe, like iTunes, more people will by my book because it cost less, and I will ultimately profit. But it is hard for an author to make that decision without more facts.

Right to Manage Books: This is what makes this settlement acceptable to me. If I can determine to what extent Google can use my copyrighted work, I control my work. This means if it is driving down my profit, I can adapt. But clarity on the amount of rights you can exercise would be helpful.

Magazines: Read my post below about magazines. While this settlement claims to be only about books, I am deeply concerned that similar online distribution of magazines is being accomplished by Google.

For more information:

Article about who is opposed to the settlement (includes a quote from Vic Perlman).

Blog post from the Advertising Photographers of America.

Article on Author’s Link.

This New York Times article discusses some of the philosophical objections to the settlement, including concerns that Google is creating a monopoly of access to “orphan” books.

The Author’s Guild, which is one of the organizations that initiated the suit. Keep in mind that they helped shape the terms of the settlement, so they believe it is fair. They have a large number of resources on their settlement page.

Google also has a settlement page.

I am a strong believer in the mantra “consider the source,” so while these resources may be accruate, you should seek out information and evaluation from a third party that is representative of creators.

All right, that should give you enough reading material until the tax extension deadline (yes, I filed for an extension for like the 5th year in a row).

Cheerio! Alicia

Coldplay accused of copyright violation

3 01 2009

Joe Satriani is suing musical group Coldplay for violating his copyright.

This article about the conflict highlights the importance of access in copyright cases.

Decide for yourself by watching this or other Youtube comparisons. I like this particular one because it plays them both and then combines them. Perfect harmony.

This article also led me to an interesting website on copyright, the UCLA copyright Infringement Project, which lists important copyright cases, mostly music related, and includes samples of both songs in various cases.

Although these cases relate to music, the concepts of IP and sampling crossover.

A $5.4 Million case against Michael Bolton had a nice summary of the basics of an infringement case:

A copyright plaintiff must prove

(1) ownership of the copyright; and

(2) infringement – that the defendant copied protected elements of the plaintiff’s work. See Smith v. Jackson, 84 F.3d 1213, 1218 (9th Cir. 1996) (citation omitted).

Absent direct evidence of copying, proof of infringement involves fact-based showings that the defendant had “access” to the plaintiff’s work and that the two works are “substantially similar.” Id.