Why I am not opting out of the Google Settlement

by Mary W. Walters

Most of the reasons for opting out of the Google Settlement are based on highly respectable principles — Google did a bad thing, and it should be punished. Google says we’re “in” unless we say we’re “out,” and that is not fair. A big company should not have so much power over all the words one writer has strung together in new ways to make meaningful sentences, stories and articles.

Sorry kids. Individual writers are no more than mosquito bites to Google. I’m a realist. To me, here is a GREAT opportunity for promotion of my entire writing career. If someone can find one of my out-of-print (OOP) books on Google, which no one will ever find otherwise, and read a paragraph or a chapter of it, and like what they have seen, maybe they will take the link to my website and buy the SAME book as an eBook or print-on-demand (POD) book directly from me (ebooks are not covered by the Google Settlement, and according to Access Copyright as of TODAY, the opinion on whether an OOP book that is reissued as POD has not been answered, and may be exempt as well, since it will have a new ISBN. The worst that can happen is that it will no longer be considered “unavailable,” and will be excluded by Google), or maybe on-line readers will buy ANOTHER novel of mine that is IN print by then, published after Jan. 5, 2009 (the cutoff date for the agreement)–such as The Whole Clove Diet, or my newest novel.

I love this chance to join the digital community and access its promotional opportunities in a new way. We’re in the same boat as the musicians now — we cannot protect text individually. The digital world is too big. This settlement is actually helping us to protect our text — because now Google has a vested interest in protecting it. This is good for my career, and I am staying in.

In short, Google did a bad thing, and the settlement they have come up with to compensate writers as a result of the lawsuit that was launched against them is of benefit to me as a writer. It is not perfect, and there are “issues,” but there are issues with everything and the ones in this case are not enough to dissuade me.

I’m in.

(For more information on the Google Settlement, visit the Access Copyright website. The “Overview” is a worthwhile document to download and there is a link to the settlement itself.)

The Google Book Settlement: Are you in or out?

by Mary W. Walters

Whether you live in the U.S.A. or not, if you published any book before January 5, 2009, you may be affected by the Google Settlement, which is a directive by the courts to Google to pay a very modest fee to writers/publishers for books that Google scanned from major U.S. libraries and intends to make available on-line. (This is a vast over-simplification. I hope that people who come to participate in this discussion will have apprised themselves of the relevant issues before making comments. I’ll probably need to revise this post several times before I get the wording right, but I want to get it posted. Here is the actual Google Book Settlement site.)

Writers and publishers owning copyright to these books have the option to ‘opt out’ of the settlement by September 4, 2009 — which means that they won’t receive the pittance of money that Google is paying to acknowledge its indebtedness to the people who created the original books that they have scanned. If you opt in, however, you give up your right to argue about the issue in the courts in future (in relation to the books in question).

I am not going to put down an explanation of the Google Settlement here. It is available in lots of places (you can Google it!!!) but as the writer of a few books that may be affected, I am waffling about whether to opt in or out. The opting in (which requires no action on our part. I know. I know!) has the advantage of making us and our book(s) part of a huge system of electronic data that is going to be available whether we’re part of it or not (being part of that, as opposed to not being part of that, appeals to me a lot) and leaving the door open for future payments by other users who get permission from Google (I know, I know!) to use our stuff. Opting out means retaining rights to intellectual property. Retaining intellectual property rights is a huge issue, and has always been very important to me, but while it’s a great principle, so far it is not producing much actual income in my case. I have reached a point where I see my earlier books as resources that will make people want to read my future books — over which I am not giving up control — and for that reason, I’m inclined to make my earlier books accessible.

This is very much related to what musicians and filmmakers are going through, but it is also totally different. We need to talk about it together. Please link to places where we can do that, or talk about it here.

If you are affected by this Settlement, tell us what you’ve decided. As writers, we have to think about this and make our own decisions — not be swayed by Google, the publishers, or our writers’ groups. We must be personally accountable to our own work.