Technology & Science

Google book deal deadline arrives for authors

With the deadline for authors to opt out of Google's controversial book settlement near, writers, publishers, regulators and other groups are still divided on the deal.

With the deadline for authors to opt out of Google's controversial book settlement near, writers, publishers, regulators and other groups are still divided on the deal.

Friday marks the final day in which book authors can opt out of the proposed settlement, which Google put forward last October in response to a lawsuit brought by The Association of American Publishers and the Author's Guild in 2005.

The lawsuit was prompted when Google partnered with several major university libraries in 2004 to scan their collections and make them available online.

The settlement includes a $125 million US payout to the publishers and authors and will allow consumers to buy scanned books from Google or access them for free from a library. Institutions will also be able to purchase subscriptions, while Google will make select passages — tied to ads — searchable online for free.

The deal only applies to books published in the United States, but could serve as a model for other countries. Many authors from other countries, including Canada, have their books published in the United States. Google plans to use geo-blocking technology to prevent access to books in other countries until agreements are reached there.

The settlement must still be approved by a U.S. court, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter on Oct. 7. Friday was also supposed to be the deadline for interested parties to file their comments on the settlement but an extension until Tuesday has been granted.

Canadians divided on issue

Google's project has provoked intense debate over the future of books online. Canadian authors are divided on the issue, with some feeling that Google is engaging in outright piracy while others believe the company is helping to expand the market for books online.

"The best way I can describe this appalling deal is to compare it to a thief breaking into your house in the middle of the night and saying that if you haven't locked your windows, your property is theirs for the taking," Katherine Gordon, a B.C. author, told the Quill and Quire.

Toronto poet and novelist Brian Joseph Davis, however, is one of a number of writers who support the deal.

"Sure, they are making billions off their ads, but as a cult author … I'd be nothing without Google and their transformation of the internet."

A number of Google rivals are also opposing the deal, saying it will give Google monopoly control over books online.

In filing its comments on Tuesday, Amazon said the settlement "is anticompetitive and violates antitrust laws because it provides Google an effective monopoly in the scanning and exploitation of millions of works whose copyright holders cannot be located or choose not to involve themselves in this class action."

The Authors Guild, one of the parties to the settlement, said Amazon's "hypocrisy is breathtaking."

"It dominates online bookselling and the fledgling e-book industry. At this moment it's trying to cement its control of the e-book industry by routinely selling e-books at a loss," the guild said in a statement.

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