Google Behaving Badly: concerns for cartoonists UPDATED
Google’s plans to scan books and make “snippets” of them available online has met with widespread opposition from authors and artists. The Authors Guild has spent many months attempting a settlement of the matter, and some well-known writers, including Ursula K LeGuin, left the organization rather than bow to copyleftists.
The French have successfully sued Google over the book scanning operation. China follows. (UPDATE: Latest info on tangentially related China/Google squabbles – hacked emails, viruses, yadda yadda.)
Everything I have read regarding the Google matter states all illustrations are to be excluded from the scans, except children’s book illustrations. “Commercially available books” are also said to be excluded. Google and its supporters repeatedly state the purpose of this database is to focus on orphaned works, but I have no trouble finding commercially available works in this database.
In Europe, Google is trying to avoid potential copyright infringement by scanning only books over 150 years old.
The current Google settlement language now excludes all foreign language books.
Today I was looking up Clive Barker books online, and I was surprised to see his graphic novels available on Google. Short stories were published in toto, a direct violation of the Google claim to publish only “snippets” and to avoid publishing illustrations, except from children’s books.
A Clive Barker graphic novel is no children’s book.
From my post one year ago:
“Inserts” include any text and other material, such as forewords, essays, poems, quotations, letters, song lyrics, children’s Book illustrations, sheet music, charts, and graphs, if independently protected by U.S. copyright, contained in a Book, a government work or a public domain book published on or before January 5, 2009 and, if U.S. works, registered (alone or as part of another work) with the U.S. Copyright Office. Inserts do not include pictorial content (except for children’s Book illustrations), or any public domain or government works.
Note that in the specific case of CHILDREN’S BOOKS, your illustrations are a part of the Google Settlement.
OK, define “Children’s Book Illustrations”.
Graphic novels included?
While the Google machine would have us believe that this attempt to preserve every book online for posterity is some sort of massive public service to preserve knowledge, it’s also a digital rights grab to boost their monopoly and their advertising revenues, forcing authors and artists to deal with a de facto publisher with whom they have no prior contract. The work is taken and the author, usually in no position to fight as an individual, is forced to settle.
And those authors now include cartoonists, even though the wording of the Google agreement is supposed to specifically exclude illustrations.
“By performing surgical nip and tuck, Google, the AAP [American Association of Publishers], and the AG [Authors Guild] are attempting to distract people from their continued efforts to establish a monopoly over digital content access and distribution; usurp Congress’s role in setting copyright policy; lock writers into their unsought registry, stripping them of their individual contract rights; put library budgets and patron privacy at risk; and establish a dangerous precedent by abusing the class action process.”
While the scans are pushed as an attempt to preserve out of print books, books of mine, currently in print, are on the Google search engine.
Some people are afraid that the settlement gives Google dominance over the book industry, but that is so far from true, since it is about out of print books. Google has zero market share in books right now, and we don’t see that them being able to offer online versions of out of print books will change that in any way.
I hardly see how Clive Barker’s works can be considered orphaned works, and how the public knowledge preserve is served by scanning in entire short stories from graphic novels, some of which are available as e-books and on bookshelves for sale right now. That this is all about “out of print books” is false on its face.
Just because Google doesn’t have a monopoly on print books, doesn’t mean it isn’t firmly establishing a monopoly on digital books.
Keep in mind the Google financial settlement also only covers books which are registered with the US Copyright Office.