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Re: Authors, publishers, settle suit with Google

Georgia Harper is definitely correct in describing the travails 
of clearing rights for orphan works.  It's a nightmare.  But the 
sarcasm of "little things like that" is perhaps better expressed 
as "matters that are not terribly important."

Orphan works are, for the most part, orphans for a reason; books 
go out of print for a reason.  If there was a large demand for 
these titles, publishers would have researched the rights 
situation.  I know because I have done this.  Many publishers 
have advisory boards whose role is to find "lost" books.  Take a 
look at the impressive catalogues at Dover Publications and the 
growing book program at "The New York Review of Books." Many 
years ago, when I was working in the bowels of what is now Pengun 
Books (it was called NAL back then), former teachers of mine 
would write me to recommend titles.  I recall requests for 
"Flatland", "Three Men in a Boat," and Jane Austen's juvenalia. 
(These all turned out to be P.D.)  I brought George Gissing's 
"The Odd Women" back into print in order to prove to a young 
woman that I was not the sexist pig she thought I was.  I lost.

The reason that these matters are not terribly important is that 
readers, not greedy publishers, have demonstrated that orphan 
titles are not terribly important.  If libraries have strong 
circulation figures for books that are out of print, heavens!, 
tell somebody.  But for books that rarely circulate or have not 
circulated in some time, the incentives for researching copyright 
status are tiny.

What troubles me about many mass digitization projects is that 
they are indeed "mass."  They are driven largely by IT and legal 
concerns and do not partake of the culturally demanding, and 
woefully inefficient, tasks of creation, selection, and curation, 
performed by authors, publishers, and librarians.  One could 
imagine a different kind of digitization project whose aim was to 
make what is already in demand more useful.  I believe this is, 
for the most part (yes, there are exceptions), a better course 
than to proceed indiscriminately.  It is indiscriminate activity 
that makes the "little things" of copyright clearance burdensome. 
It is time to reawaken to the old-fashioned virtue of exercising 

Joe Esposito

----- Original Message -----
From: "Harper, Georgia K" <gharper@austin.utexas.edu>
To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 2:16 PM
Subject: Re: Authors, publishers, settle suit with Google

> It's nice when you don't have to worry about the orphan works,
> works that are out of print that even their owners don't have
> copies of, works whose ownership is biterly disputed as between
> authors and publishers, little things like that.
> Georgia Harper
> Scholarly Communications Advisor
> University of Texas at Austin Libraries
> 512.495.4653 (w); 512.971.4325 (cell)
> gharper@austin.utexas.edu
> On 11/4/08 4:52 PM, "Joseph J. Esposito" <espositoj@gmail.com> wrote:
> Concerning "the almost impossible task" referenced here:
> I am currently workling with a tech company that is getting
> publishers to agree to make their content available.  We get new
> publishers signed up every week.  We have taken a
> publisher-friendly approach (no invocation of fair use rights, to
> cite one example), and publishers seem to be very pleased with
> progress thus far.  Everything is "opt-in," everything is
> presumed to be under copyright.  There are no secret agreements,
> no NDAs.
> Prior to Google's announcement of its library digitization
> project, publishers were flocking to join Google's book program.
> It was entirely opt-in.
> The notion that the only way to digitize these materials is to do
> it Google's way, with a team of lawyers, is belied by the facts.
> Joe Esposito
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Lesley Harris" <lesleyeharris@comcast.net>
> To: <liblicense-l@lists.yale.edu>
> Sent: Monday, November 03, 2008 3:29 PM
> Subject: Re: Authors, publishers, settle suit with Google
>> The Registry which will be seeded by Google funds but run
>> independently will supposedly be open to all who want to
>> digitize books, so rights will be centralized (unless authors
>> opt out). This means that any other digital entrepreneurs may
>> also undertake digitization projects.  Without this registry,
>> other entrepreneurs would either be faced with a law suit like
>> Google was in 2005, or obtain rights from individual rights
>> holders whose works they want to digitize -- an almost
>> impossible task. So yes, Google has a lead on this -- for out
>> of print books still in-copyright -- but the door is not shut
>> to others.  (There are many practical, management, future
>> funding, and control issues relating to the Registry which I'm
>> sure will be topic of many discussions should the settlement be
>> accepted by the district court.)
>> Lesley Ellen Harris
>> lesley @ copyrightlaws.com
>> www.copyrightanswers.blogspot.com