Global Trade Talk: Global Reactions to the Revised Google Book Settlement Range from Praise to Resentment

In Global Trade Talk by Edward Nawotka

By Siobhan O’Leary and Ed Nawotka

The revised Google Settlement has sparked a number of reactions, but notably, the strongest have been from Europe. Publishers Weekly explains that the revisions limit the settlement “to books that were either registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or published in the U.K., Australia or Canada,” thus limiting the agreement to the “four countries which share a common legal heritage and similar book industry practices.”

In the UK, the Bookseller reports that the Publishers Association will support the settlement provided. “The PA said this would give UK rights holders ‘more control over their works, and substantially decrease the risk of works being exploited without their explicit authorization,’ writes the Bookseller, adding, “It also guarantees representation for UK publishers on the Book Rights Registry’s Board of Directors.”

Of course, it was continental European publishers who objected most strongly to the terms (the BBC has a fine round-up here). In Germany, publishers and booksellers have had a mixed reaction to the amended Google Book Settlement, ranging from relief to anxiety. Prof. Dr. Gottfried Honnefelder, head of the Börsenverein, expressed his gratitude to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), among others, for their role in addressing the concerns of European publishers. As reported in the Börsenblatt and elsewhere, Honnefelder said that the Börsenverein would be reviewing the revised draft in the coming weeks to decide if further action is needed. Speaking to German radio channel Deutschlandradio Kultur, Honnefelder said, “Progress is now passing us by” and “The market that Google is supplying will still exist. We’ll be outside it and will not listed.” He emphasized the added importance now of creating a German digital library as part of Europeana and called for Europeans to unit in this effort.

In New Zealand—a country that one could argue also should be included in the group of “four”—Martin Taylor, founder of the New Zealand Digital Publishing Forum, observed on his blog: “Interestingly, many of those from countries excluded from the deal might now be asking themselves, ‘Why can’t we be in, too?’ Perhaps this is part of the clever psychology of the deal, creating an apparent ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ so that the excluded parties feel obliged to open negotiations with Google.”

Finally, in the United States, the backlash has begun. On Saturday, Peter Brantley, co-chair of Open Book Alliance, a lobby group backed by Google rivals Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo, called the deal in his blog post “sleight of hand.”

“None of the proposed changes appear to address the fundamental flaws illuminated by the Department of Justice and other critics that impact public interest. By performing surgical nip and tuck, Google, the AAP, and the AG 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.”

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.