As I learned via Twitter this morning (thanks, Tim O’Reilly), the Authors’ and Publishers’ class counsel have reached a proposed settlement of their lawsuits against Google’s book scanning program. Early press reports say Google will pay about $125 million.
There are some fascinating pieces to the settlement agreement, including some that look like private implementations of infrastructure you’d really expect government to provide: a registry of copyrighted works, a quasi-orphan-works safe harbor for good-faith use of works believed to be in the public domain. There are provisions for school and library access, and a marketplace, a clearing-center for Google to share revenue from commercial uses it makes.
I worry about the effects on competition — Google’s high settlement payments are barriers to entry by anyone else. Though it’s plausible no one had the resources or spine to compete with Google regardless, a judicial determination that the use was fair would have enabled more competition in parallel and distinct library offerings. Now, Google cements its advantage in yet another field. (And of course, with the circularity of “effect on the market” testing, makes it harder for someone else to claim fair use.)
More to come on closer reading…