WSJ: Google Books Settlement a "Ripoff"

See this editorial published in the Wall Street Journal, Google’s Book Settlement is a Ripoff for Authors by Lynn Chu of Writers Representatives, an literary agent who, according to their site, “represents authors of trade books in the sale or licensing of rights to appropriate publishers (and other copyright licensees) on the best possible terms and in all media.”

She starts with an easy lash-out against the (presumably blood-sucking) class action lawyers who stand to make $30M on the deal:

The settlement gives the class-action attorneys $30 million; a new, quasi-judicial bureaucracy called the Book Rights Registry $35 million (more on this later); and $45 million for owners infringed up to now — about $60 a title. It remains subject to a final fairness hearing, slated for June 11.

She then argues that Google has handed the publishing industry a massive data entry task:

Consider this: Under the settlement, every rights-owner in America is supposed to hand over all their private contract data, on every edition of every work they ever wrote — and every excerpt permission ever granted to others — at the peril of losing the money Google will be making on their backs. This is a massive burden on everyone in the book industry, making us all, in effect, Google’s data-entry slaves.

She then discusses publishing economics:

Book publishers today are entitled to a share of the publishing partnership because they shoulder — not lay off on authors — all the costs of editing and publication and marketing. The author’s net profit share, generally half, in books, is for his creation. The author’s share rises against the publisher when the publisher’s costs are lower, as in digital. If the author shoulders still more of those costs and burdens, the publisher’s share should be reduced again. That doesn’t happen with Google.

And concludes:

The U.S. Constitution grants authors small monopolies in their own copyrights. Author market power is talent-based and individual, not collective. This class action seeks to wipe all this out — just for Google. But U.S. law does not grant any single publisher monopoly power to herd all of us into its list.

See Slashdot for interesting discussion / reaction to the article. See this scathing rebuttal by another literary agent, Janet Reid.

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