Can anyone tell me what happened to copyright?
Ever since I became aware of the Google Books Settlement, I've been wondering about this. For those who don't know the ins and outs of the settlement, welcome to the club. It's a cumbersome and strange world of legalese that I don't understand. The long and short of it is that Google decided to scan more than seven million books. The assertion is that most of these tomes were in-copyright but out of print –though my first book is still in print and definitely was when it was scanned — and that Google, through the goodness of its corporate heart, was doing this as a public service. Authors Guild didn't buy the altruism angle and there was a big lawsuit.
From what I gather, authors/publishers are now required to opt-in or out of this settlement by May 5, 2009. If someone opts in, he or she gets a one-time payment of $60-$300 and everything will be hunky dory. But Google will still have the complete book scanned and what's going to happen to that work over time?
Am I the only one who thinks this isn't such a spiffy deal?
Sure I want people to read my writing. But there's something that irks me about businesses profiting off of my writing when they didn't have squat to do with its creation or production — and that I won't receive any kind of continued payment for it.
Of course, the fact that Google is paying anything at all is, I guess, a victory of sorts. After all, there are fans (especially in the science fiction and romance worlds) and organizations that are posting complete books online without even paying a nomimal fee.
Still this Google settlement feels like a Pyhrric victory at best. I can't help wonder when Google is going to start selling subscriptions to its library of scanned books and how many millions or billions of dollars it'll make from our work (and what impact it'll have on brick and mortar libraries).
And what about organizations like BookShare.org? This nonprofit makes books available to people with vision impairments. As you know, one of my children could benefit from such a service. I found out that BookShare has The Clovis Incident in its database now. According to an email from Robin Seaman, "Publisher Liaison for Bookshare.org, a Benetech Initiative," I should really feel that this is an honor.
The scanning without permission is legal under something called the Chafee Amendment to the copyright law (1996).
Don't get me wrong. I'm happy that at least one of my books is available to people with vision impairments. I just want to be paid for my work.
Right now I'm feeling nickeled and dimed, like chunks of me are being chipped away, for no good reason other than businesses greed and people's miserliness.
Where in the world does this stop?
Why aren't readers outraged that their favorite writers aren't being paid? What other profession (except music) has this expectation that creativity doesn't deserve to be reasonably compensated?
How the hell are we storytellers going to make a living?
What say you, readers? Do you think writers should be paid? If so, who should pay them? Do you have any responsibility in the mix?
What say you, writers? Are you opting in or out of the Google Books Settlement? How do you plan to sustain your writing livelihood in an age when copyright for everyone, except maybe Disney (insert registration mark here), is coming to mean nothing?