Sign Ursula Le Guin's Petition Against the Google Book Settlement
*If you don't know what is going on here, read or listen to this interview with Professor James Grimmelmann at the New York Law School first"

Ursula Le Guin has started an online petition against the Google Book Settlement and is trying to get as many names together as possible to protest the Settlement before the January 28th deadline.

Here are the terms of her petition:

Petition Concerning the Google Book Settlement

The Google Settlement was negotiated by the Authors Guild, without consultation with any other group of authors or American authors as a whole. The Guild cannot and does not speak for all American writers. Its settlement cannot be seen as reflecting the will or interest of any group but the Guild.

Three groups of American writers, the National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, are opposed to the settlement. So are all the signatories of this letter: professional writers, who make part or all their living from their copyrights.

Ireland, India, South Africa, and New Zealand (countries with active publication in English) protested the settlement and have been exempted from it. The governments of Germany and France protested unregulated digitization and have been exempted from the Settlement (and the French Government is suing Google for illegal digitization of copyrighted property.)

We ask that the United States also be exempted from the settlement. We ask that the principle of copyright, which is directly threatened by the settlement, be honored and upheld in the United States.

The "opt-out" clause in the Settlement is most disturbing:

First, it seems unfair that, by the terms of the class-action settlement, authors can officially present objections to the Court only by being "opted in" to the settlement and thereby subjecting themselves to its terms.

Second, while the "opt-out" clause appears to offer authors an easy way to defend their copyright, in fact it disguises an assault on authors' rights. Google, like any other publisher or entity, should be required to obtain permission from the owner to purchase or use copyrighted material, item by item.

There is no justification for reversing that rule by forcing copyright owners to defend their right against every careless or predatory use of the material, thus rendering copyright essentially meaningless.

The United States Department of Justice agrees, having declared that Google should negotiate individually with copyright holders. The Director of the United States Copyright Office calls the Settlement "an end-run around copyright law."

The free and open dissemination of information and of literature, as it exists in our Public Libraries, can and should exist in the electronic media. All authors hope for that. But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it. We urge our government and our courts to allow no corporation to circumvent copyright law or dictate the terms of that control."

In order to sign the petition, you can either email "[email protected]" and ask to be included, or you can visit the "Book View Cafe" blog and add your name in the comments section. In order to sign the petition, you must be a professional writer with some stake in the issue. You must sign the petition before January 25th.

Le Guin is a fearless badass fiction-warrior anarchist, and we would expect nothing less from her than standing up to the entire publishing industry singlehanded if that is what she must do. She is leading this fight. She is old. She is experienced. She is not trying to position for her career or suck up to the existing publishing rackets. Her books are all about doing what is right in the face of immense uncertainty and oppression, and it turns out that her values are not mere words.

Le Guin has been looking into the future for so long that this has become second nature to her. It doesn't take much wisdom to see that this deal is bad for fiction writers and is so legally strange that we ought to all be suspicious, merely on general principles.

We at the Fiction Circus would personally like to see a rights auction for all these orphan works in order to create an exciting new digital marketplace that benefits consumers, publishers, and writers.

But, since this will never happen, the next best thing would be to overturn this Settlement, letting Google continue with their already-existing, legal "opt-in" electronic books program, forcing them to compete with everybody else who is trying to sell electronic books the old fashioned way: by securing rights -- case by case -- and then abiding by a contract that benefits both parties.

Posted by miracle on Sat, 23 Jan 2010 11:03:15 -0500 -- permanent link

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