Authors Guild: We don’t want to be the RIAA

The Authors Guild agreed to a controversial settlement with Google because it feared repeating the mistakes that the music industry has made in dealing with digital works, it said Friday.

Google and the Authors Guild have struggled to get final approval of a settlement granting Google the right to continue a six-year book-scanning project than has digitized 12 million titles. Objections to that settlement from authors and academics have been heated, and despite revisions, the U.S. Department of Justice continued to object in principle to the settlement on Thursday, saying "the (revised agreement) purports to grant legal rights that are difficult to square with the core principle of the Copyright Act that copyright owners generally control whether and how to exploit their works during the term of copyright."

With that in mind, many have wondered why the Authors Guild chose to settle the case rather than fight it out in court and clear up the issue of whether or not Google’s decision to scan out-of-print yet copyright-protected books really is allowed under fair-use laws. The reason is simple, the Guild said in a blog post Friday: legal victories haven’t stopped copyright infringement in other forms of digital media.

"Copyright victories tend to be Pyrrhic in the digital age," the Guild wrote. If the Guild had prevailed in its suit against Google, it said it believed that copyright infringement would have just moved elsewhere, just as court victories won by the RIAA over Napster led to the rise of services like Kazaa and others.

Leave a Reply