The fate of many Indian authors, who have opposed the proposed Google Book Settlement Version 2 (GBS 2.0) agreement submitted by Google in US Court in November last year, will be decided on February 18th, 2010.
The dispute in question involves the Google’s Library Project announced in 2004 by Google, through which Google had entered into agreements with several libraries to digitize the books. As a result of which, several authors brought suit against Google for infringement of their copyrights by digitizing their books without obtaining the permission. In response to the action taken by the authors to prevent the Google from digitizing the books, Google argued that display or usage of few lines from the books of the authors only amount to “fair use” under the US law. However, before a discussion could happen on the “fair use”, the suit was withdrawn from the Court and parties agreed to settle through a settlement agreement.
After many rounds of negotiations held for arriving at a settlement agreement, Google finally submitted GBS 2.0 to US Courts in November last year. GBS 2.0 however fell short on various aspects, which are of concerns to many authors including the Indian authors. As a result of which, oppositions flooded in on the last date of filing the opposition (28.01.10). Indian authors too along with the Indian Reprographic Rights Organization (IRRO) and Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) filed objections, alleging violation of their Copyrights.
The point which is of utmost concern to Indian authors is that Google proposes to make only such authors party to the agreement whose work is registered in US or published in UK, Canada and Australia and continue to scan and display portions of books of non US and foreign authors who are not party to the agreement without taking permission from them. This clause is highly unequal and unfair and is the centre point for the debate with the foreign authors, who does not have registered copyrights in US or whose works are not published in UK, Australia and Canada.
GBS 2.0 also allows the members of Authors Guild to opt out of the proposed settlement agreement and enjoy special deals with the Google. Such an option of entering into special deals with Google is not offered to non US and foreign authors.
Google further forces the authors to provide it with a copyright license for any future reproduction or improvement of their works.
Given the backdrop, the proposed settlement seems to favour US authors largely, because of which GBS 2.0 has created a great divide among literary fractions around the world. A single profit making entity claiming monopoly over the digital database of the books hampers the rights of the authors and various copyright owners around the world. Hence, it will be interesting to see if US Court will acknowledge such monopoly by Google over the digital database of the books. The voices of concern are pouring in from all around the world and Indian authors are not the only ones to raise an opposition. All eyes will be on Court to see if Court will respect and uphold the rights of the foreign and non US authors and copyright holders.