What Does the Google Book Search Settlement Mean for the Industry?
Representatives of the book industry's leading trade groups say the pending agreement brokered last week with Google over the Internet search giant's controversial Book Search tool will benefit the U.S. publishing industry for years to come.
After nearly three years of negotiations, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Authors Guild came together with Google last Tuesday to announce that an out-of-court settlement had been reached: The lawsuits would be dropped. A resolution to the ongoing battle over the fair use exceptions to the copyright used in the online book-scanning project had been made.
The deal—if approved by a federal court—could go down as one of the biggest ever for the industry, as it is expected to create a new channel of payments for digital works online.
The settlement will allow Google to make millions of books available to read or buy through its Google Book Search, while providing compensation to both publishers and authors for their works. Rights holders will have the power to withdraw books from the Google database if they so choose.
AAP President and CEO Pat Schroeder told Book Business Extra that the decision to establish a Book Rights Registry will create a key business model and, in turn, a new cash flow for publishers. The registry—to be made up of a board of directors comprised of publishing and author representatives—will monitor compensation for both parties. Google will pay $125 million as part of the deal—with money going to set up the registry, as well as pay the publishing litigants' legal fees.
If the copyright cases had been settled in court, a partnership with Google to explore the online search option may never have happened, Schroeder says. "If we had fought it, we would have a decision that we were right or wrong," she continues. "I think this is great news."
According to Schroeder, the mission now for the AAP is to help interpret the settlement, especially the ins and outs of the registry, for its 260 publishing members.
"It's a confusing document," she says of the agreement. "Publishers want to know how this will affect them. It's one of the most complex agreements you could think of."
Schroeder adds that she believes the deal is also an advantage for both readers and scholars.
Google Book Search will allow users to search full text of copyrighted books—both in-print and out-of-print titles. Users also will have the ability to pay a per-page fee to print or purchase a digital or hard copy of a book. Schools and libraries will have the ability to purchase access to a subscription service.
"This is a key business model that will create cash flow," says Schroeder.
Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, told Book Business Extra that the negotiations with the AAP was one of the closest working relationships between publishers and authors. "This is very much a business model for all sides that makes sense," he says. "The big deal is having a licensed solution going forward."
According to Aiken, licensing could have potentially created a cloudy rights situation. "The settlement gives us a way to cut through this," he says.
Under the new deal, if rights have not reversed to the author, publishers and authors will split revenue 50/50 for books post-1987 used with Google Book Search. Pre-1987 books will have a 65/35 split in favor of the author.
Representatives at Google could not be reached for comment for this story.