Digital Directions: The Google Settlement
It has been several months since Google’s preliminary out-of-court settlement with the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Authors Guild regarding Google Book Search, and the dust has yet to settle. The agreement’s true impact will only become apparent over time, as its terms are put into practice. The devil will be in the details of execution. This is a watershed event nonetheless and marks the beginning of a new era in content distribution. A few themes have emerged that will characterize this next phase.
A Scalable Framework
The settlement allows Google to digitize books in libraries in toto, without prior clearance, and enable the discovery of books on the Web by making books’ content accessible to search. This is a good thing: Discovery is the first step in distributing and selling a book. In the Book Search program, a rights holder has the ability to opt out and remove his works from
In a statement announcing the settlement, AAP Chairman Richard Sarnoff referred to the agreement as “an innovative framework for the use of copyrighted material in a rapidly digitizing world.” One area of such innovation is the scalable nature of this approach to digital content distribution.
Prior to this settlement, in order for a book to be discovered and delivered digitally, a publisher would have to include the specific title in a specific digital distribution program with a specific distributor or digital channel partner. This is a pretty slow way to go.
Assuming the rights holder does not opt out, the books and all of their contents will be swept up into the gaping maw of the program, and—if all goes as planned—distribution and revenue opportunities will flow appropriately. This framework will cause rivers of printed content to flow into the digital sea.