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Opposition to Google's book deal: Just Microsoft?

Last fall, Google announced a breakthrough deal with book authors -- a $125 million fund from which authors would be compensated in exchange for Google being able to scan and display book images. I noted at the time that the deal offered a way out of the orphan works dead-end.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on

Last fall, Google announced a breakthrough deal with book authors -- a $125 million fund from which authors would be compensated in exchange for Google being able to scan and display book images. I noted at the time that the deal offered a way out of the orphan works dead-end. Rather than having to track down all those lost copyright holders, the burden will be on the orphan copyright holder to step forward to claim their royalty.

But as the deal comes up for approval, a lot of opposition to the deal has been voiced, as Miguel Helft covered in the New York Times.

Chief among the "growing chorus" of opposition, Helft said, were:

the American Library Association, the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School and a group of lawyers led by Prof. Charles R. Nesson of Harvard Law School.

But Writing at Wired earlier this week, Stephen Levy revealed that New York Law School receives substantial support from Microsoft. The law school's Google Books Settlement project received $50,000 from Redmond, which is the sole funder of the project. For that money, New York Law has produced an amicus brief in federal court, a series of white papers, a symposium on the settlement issues, and a website that will "act as a hub of activity for those challenging or asking for changes on the settlement," Levy reports.

At the Bits blog, Helft said that Google has been quite delighted with Levy's work and has been passing it around the halls of Washington as part of its lobbying for the settlement.

But it's not like Microsoft is the only one pushing aganst the deal, Helft says. Columbia Law School recently held a symposium on the deal where Marybeth Peters, the United States Register of Copyrights, called the agreement “a compulsory license for the benefit of one company.”

If you're interested in this deal, check out Mary Minow's LibraryLaw Blog, parts one and two.

[Peters] admitted that not one member of Congress has asked the Copyright Office to comment on the settlement – even though it may fundamentally change how Americans can access and use copyrighted information. This might be because the enormous sea-change that the Settlement represents has not sunk in with the public.

Oh, and if you're DC, you might stop by the ITIF's conference on the settlement, April 21 at the Library of Congress.

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