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Google Books – What Next by Samantha Holman, Irish Copyright Licensing Agency

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Samantha Holman

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After seven long years an end is somewhat in sight for the Google Book Settlement.

On October 4th Google and the American Association of Publishers announced that they had signed a settlement agreement that means that publishers are no longer litigants in the suit against Google for copyright violation.

Since early 2005 Google has been scanning library books for use in its Google Book Search project.  Some 20 million books have been scanned without seeking permission in advance. Google continues scanning books daily.

In The Authors Guild et al v Google, now before the US Court of Appeals, writers say this is illegal since those who hold the rights to the books haven’t given permission. National writers’ organisations in the US are concerned that this secret deal between Google and the major book publishers may encourage Google to digitise, use and sell copyright books illegally.

Orphan Works and Estate Management
One of the outcomes of the Google Book Settlement process is an awareness of how difficult any mass digitisation project is going to be. Publishers go out of business and disappear, authors don’t necessarily leave a forwarding address or think about what is going to happen to their copyright after their death. Tracing authors in order get permissions can be extremely difficult.

Irish Copyright Licensing Agency is taking part in a European project to create a registry of orphan works – an orphan work is a copyrighted work for which the copyright owner cannot be contacted. In some cases the name of the creator or copyright owner of an orphan work may be known but other than the name no information can be established. Reasons for a work to be orphan include that the copyright owner is unaware of their ownership, or that the copyright owner has died or gone out of business (if a company) and it is not possible to establish to whom ownership of the copyright has passed.

In order to create the registry of orphan works, the ICLA also need to create a database of all works from which to identify the orphans. Thinking about how you wish your copyright to be used after your death is a useful process for those who want to access your works in the future.

It is worth comparing two Irish literary estates which highlight the importance of good estate management – The Patrick & Katherine Kavanagh Trust continue, some forty years after Patrick Kavanagh’s death to do good work in the writer community.  All royalties from Kavanagh’s work are used to help Irish poets who are in need of assistance through the Patrick & Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship. In contrast, The James Joyce Estate has been notorious for restricting the use of Joyce’s work.  Is this in line with James Joyce’s wishes and beliefs?

If a clear statement is made about the ongoing use of an author’s work, situations where the author’s wishes are in doubt can be avoided in the future.

To find out more about Google Books and Estate Management, ICLA is running a free seminar for authors in the National Library of Ireland at 11.30 am on Thursday 18th October. Contact info@icla.ie to register if you would like to attend.

For more information, check out www.icla.ie

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