Thursday, August 27, 2009

Author Alert - The Writers' Union of Canada

AUTHOR ALERT! Sept. 4th is last day to OPT OUT of the Google Books Settlement
Today at 6:19pm
To all authors anywhere in the world:

The following message has been prepared by author and former contract lawyer Katherine Gordon. It is intended for any and all authors concerned about retaining meaningful rights to their work in the context of the impending Google Books Settlement. Remember: if you do nothing by September 4th, then you are "in." This post will tell you How and Why to OPT OUT.

Please use the "Share" function to post this note on your own Facebook profile.

This message is being sent to you by members of The Writers' Union of Canada (TWUC) who have opted out of the Google Books Settlement, notwithstanding advice by TWUC National Council to the contrary. The BC/Yukon region of TWUC passed a resolution at our last meeting asking TWUC to send members a list of the cons of the settlement as well as the pros, for balance and to help the members make a reasoned decision. We think it imperative that members receive as much information as possible before the final date for opting out, which is September 4.

Please note: if you do not opt out of the settlement by September 4th, then under the terms of the settlement, if it is subsequently upheld in court, YOU WILL BE BOUND BY THE SETTLEMENT. This settlement affects authors and their books in every country of the world.

Below are instructions for opting out, should you choose to do so. Please note that this is entirely your own decision and we do emphasize that you should read as much of the available information on the settlement in order to make that an informed decision.

Here is a link to the website form for opting out (which also contains FAQs):

Follow the instructions as set out on the website. It is recommended that you print out the form before pressing send, as you will not receive an online acknowledgement that it was sent. You may also wish to send a hard copy opt out letter to the address provided.

A sample letter to Google and to the settlement administrator is also attached. (Not possible to attach in this Facebook posting. If you would like a copy of Katherine's sample opt-out letter, just email me, Kim Goldberg, at: ) This opt-out letter was created and sent by Katherine Gordon, a BC TWUC member. Her advice was that opting out is not sufficient if you do not want Google to illegally scan your books and sell them online: it is also necessary to write to Google and specifically forbid them to do it. This letter has not received legal review, although Katherine is a former corporate and contract lawyer. She is happy for anyone to feel free to use and/or modify the letter for their own use as they wish.

It is also recommended that you cc your publisher or anyone else with a licence to use your copyrighted work, for their information.

Why have so many of us chosen to opt out?
There are many factors to consider in this decision. This is not a complete list by any means: we repeat, it is fundamental that you take some time in the next week to pay attention to the details and not let the date of September 4 slide by without making sure of what you want to do.

However, this list comprises many of the key reasons we do not support being part of the settlement:

- Google is not the only digital marketer in the world, but the settlement effectively provides it with mass marketing power disproportionate to the return it will provide to rights-holders.

- We do not believe there is any disadvantage in marketing our books on other digital fora, including our own publishers' websites.

- The fine print of the settlement contains many hidden and sharp drawbacks for rights holders. These include no payment for a minimum of five years; no ongoing commitment financially to the book registry; no monitoring of Google figures and revenue returns; no commitment to what commercial fees it would lever from any books; exclusion from the settlement of books it does not consider to be commercially available in the US, which it deems to be out of print and therefore fair game for theft of copyright; and control over sale pricing of books.

- Google has already proved itself both unreliable and untrustworthy. It has been stealing copyright for a considerable period of time and had to be sued to slow it down (it hasn't stopped). It has also made numerous mistakes in the works illegally scanned to date.

- Allowing our books to be scanned and available to a mass market by Google, who have little interest in anti-piracy and few filters to prevent it, exposes our works to even more piracy than Google itself is committing.

- Sitting back while our copyright is being freely used in this manner and failing to take action to protect it erodes our legal rights at law. In due course, our private property rights in our copyright will be entirely lost if we do not strive to protect them in some manner.

- Ethically, we are opposed to a multibillion dollar corporate giant imposing this on the millions of authors worldwide who have no choice or capacity to fight them. Google has attempted to keep the settlement as quiet as possible - many authors will simply never have heard of it and their works will be sold by Google without recourse. This is unacceptable.

- Authors who are caught by the settlement and do not have a contract that specifies the royalty division on e-rights now have to negotiate the split with their publishers under extreme pressure. This is unfair and untenable. 63% of revenues sounds good: but at this stage, it is looking like 63% of sweet F-A.

On balance, considering these and the other many arguments against it (just google "Google settlement" and you will find many media commentaries that favour opting out), we have chosen to opt out rather than be steamrollered into effectively giving away our rights to Google.

Please consider these thoughts carefully and make a well-informed decision.

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