[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: Legal Battles Over E-Book Rights to Older Books

An interesting article, but it fails to note one very obvious 
reason that the battle over e-book rights has taken on added 
importance: the Google Settlement.  Here is what I wrote in this 
regard in an article about Google 2.0 forthcoming in the next 
issue of Against the Grain:

Google 2.0 is unquestionably an improvement on Google 1.0 in many 
respects, and the chances for approval by the judge after the 
final fairness hearing scheduled for February 18 now seem much 
better than before. But, besides the loose ends and only partly 
satisfactory solutions identified above, the Settlement still 
leaves much to be desired in other respects. Although it is good 
to have some funding explicitly aimed at helping identify and 
locate the rightsholders of unclaimed, including orphan, works 
through the redirection of monies not claimed by rightsholders, 
publishers in general and university presses in particular 
continue to face the daunting challenge of knowing what rights 
they actually have.

As Mike Shatzkin observed in his blog about "A serious issue for 
big publishers"  on April 14, "they are largely in the dark about 
what rights they own." The Google-related issues primarily 
revolve around whether the rights to an inactive book (or, in the 
settlement lingo, what they would call 'not commercially 
available') have reverted to the author or are still held by the 
publisher. Publishers also have problems with books on which they 
unambiguously have the rights to print and sell copies. What they 
don't know, without looking at the original contract, is whether 
the language in it gives them a shot at an ebook, a 
print-on-demand edition, or allows them to include some of the 
material in that book in an electronic database. Even looking at 
the contract might not tell them if they have the rights to use 
artwork that is in the book in any other edition"


Some commercial publishers face an additional challenge that 
university presses fortunately do not have to worry about: 
companies that once were independent have merged, sometimes 
several times over, and tracking the disposition of rights across 
various stages of merger can be a major obstacle to clarity about 
who now holds what rights.  But university presses have the same 
problems commercial publishers do with rights reversion and old 
contracts not containing any or inadequate language about 
electronic rights.

Sandy Thatcher
Penn State University Press

>"...the question of exactly who owns the electronic rights
>to...older titles is in dispute, making it a rising source of
>conflict in one of the publishing industry's last remaining areas
>of growth."
>Bernie Sloan