Saturday, August 22, 2009

Online literary angst
Saturday Aug 22, 2009
By Geoff Cumming writing in the New Zealand Herald

An e-book on an iPhone. Photo / AP

As the deadline looms, New Zealand authors must decide whether to opt in to a controversial agreement which lets online giant Google scan their works for American audiences.
For the Eketahuna author whose masterpiece is gathering dust in the local Sallies' store, the prospect of exposure to a vast American audience browsing Google Book Search must be some consolation. Especially if a few greenbacks eventually trickle through from the publisher, under copyright.
For five years now, Google has been hoovering up all the information from millions of books worldwide, putting knowledge from the world's great research libraries just a mouse click away in the Google Library.
Internet users can access excerpts for research while subscribing libraries and similar institutions can buy whole books. It's a short step to all users downloading whole book files.
And it's not just research books. Google has digitised novels, poetry and non-fiction by Janet Frame, Hone Tuwhare, Witi Ihimaera, Michael King, James K Baxter, Keri Hulme, Maurice Gee, Margaret Mahy and dozens of other New Zealand authors without their permission.
Google maintains it can digitise and show excerpts of copyrighted books under US "fair use" laws. It has also digitised thousands of books by agreement with authors under its Partner Programme.
But since 2004, it has scanned books without permission of the author or publisher through deals with libraries and institutions.
A court challenge by American authors and publishers last year was supposed to give them a degree of control over Google's activities and ensure copyright dues were paid.
What emerged was an out-of-court settlement full of compromises which - if ratified by a judge in October - could ensnare authors around the world. It looms, says the New York Review of Books, as an electronic library that could out-Amazon Amazon.
This story runs to a complete broadsheet page in the NZ Herald's Review section this morning - Page B3.
If you are outside the Herald's circulation area, (around 50% of Beattie's Book Blog readers, around 2000 a day, live outside NZ), and wish to read Geoff Cumming's whole article online then link here.
Cumming's piece is the fullest treatment I have yet seen on the subject in the NZ media.

1 comment:

vicki archer said...

Does this mean we will make even less than we do now?? Not possible!!! xv