Publishers approach US court against Google

Last Updated 28 January 2010, 20:00 IST

The Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO) and Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) on Thursday filed their objections with a New York court against Google Book Settlement’s (GBS 2.0) “blatant violation” of Indian and International copyright laws.

The move follows similar protests by publishers from other parts of the world against GBS 2.0, which makes thousands of books available on the Internet allegedly without giving any royalty to authors and publishers, IRRO’s counsel said.

The two organisations, along with publishers like Star Publications Private Ltd, Abhinav Publications, Daya Publication House and Pustak Mahal, filed their objection at the New York District Court against what they called illegal copying of literary works and secret negotiations by a few US-based publishers on behalf of thousands of authors and publishers worldwide.

IRRO and FIP alleged in their plaint with the court that what Google had done was contrary to the principles of fundamental fairness and natural justice, as the settlement had been arrived at without adequate notice to affected parties. The court is expected to hear the matter mid-February. “The Google Book Settlement is contrary to every international treaty that governs copyright laws. Google’s unilateral conduct is a brazen attempt to turn copyright law on its head, by usurping the exclusive rights of the copyright holder,” IRRO counsel Siddharth Arya said.

Roots of controversy
The roots of the controversy lie in Google’s scanning of over seven million books from across the world since 2004. In the US, the campaign against GBS 2.0 is being led by the Open Book Alliance, members of which include the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the National Writers Union, the New York Library Association and the US Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.

According to IRRO and FIP, the Authors Guild of America sued the company for copyright infringement, resulting in the Google Book Settlement (GBS) that was binding on almost all authors and publishers.

But after objections to GBS from countries like France and Germany as well as the US Department of Justice, the Court asked Google to file a revised settlement.

IRRO said that the outcome, GBS 2.0, incorporated “minor, cosmetic changes but continues to violate basic copyright laws” while retaining several fundamental issues in the original settlement, such as a mechanism known as “opt out”.

The current scope of GBS2.0, Arya says, covers books that are either registered with the US Copyright Office or published in the UK, Canada and Australia.

However, it impacts the rest of the world as much, since any author published in the aforementioned countries is included in the settlement, especially sine in the current global economy, Indian authors like to see themselves published abroad for higher royalties and better professional services, he points out.

(Published 28 January 2010, 20:00 IST)

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