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Google To Remove "Inappropriate" Books From Digital Library 192

Posted by timothy
from the limited-resources dept.
Miracle Jones writes "In an interview with Professor (and former Microsoft employee) James Grimmelmann at the New York Law School, who is both setting up an online clearinghouse to discuss the Google book settlement and drafting an amicus brief to inform the court about the antitrust factors surrounding "orphan books," he revealed that Google will be able to moderate the content of its book scans in the same way that they moderate their YouTube videos, leaving out works that Google deems "inappropriate" from the 7 million library books it has scanned. The Fiction Circus has called for a two-year long rights auction that will ensure that these "inappropriate" titles do not get left behind in the digital era, and that other people who are willing to host and display these books will be able to do so. There is only one week left for authors and publishers to "opt out" of the settlement class and retain their rights or raise objections, and Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive has been stopped from jumping on board Google's settlement as a party defendant and receiving the same legal protections that Google will get. A group of authors, including Philip K. Dick's estate, has tried to delay the settlement for four more months until they get their minds around the issue." In related news, Google is seeking a 60-day extension to the period in which it's attempting to contact authors to inform them of their right to opt-out of the terms of the settlement.
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Google To Remove "Inappropriate" Books From Digital Library

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  • You Would Think... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mlingojones (919531) * on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:52PM (#27747331) Homepage

    ...that Google might have learned something from the massive backlash against Amazon for supposedly doing something similar?

    I suppose we'll have to wait and see what gets flagged as "inappropriate." Whatever the case, I'm guessing that people won't care nearly as much as t hey did with Amazon.

  • Burn 'em! (Score:4, Funny)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:54PM (#27747345) Homepage

    Question: how do you burn a digital book?

  • Censorship (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gat0r30y (957941) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:54PM (#27747347) Homepage Journal
    Is inappropriate. Don't be evil Google.
    • Re:Censorship (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:05PM (#27747503)

      Exactly. NOTHING is inappropriate!

      Google needs to stop censoring books and youtube.

      They dont sensor their image search results... YET. I know they have their moderate filter on by default and perhaps that is how they should approach books and youtube videos as well but at the end of the day, citizens of the United States and the world should not be censored by Google. It should be left up to the user.

      so called "offensive" material is 1 click away from EVERYTHING. As it should be.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by EzRider (598401)

        Exactly. NOTHING is inappropriate!

        Tubgirl begs to differ.

    • Not hosting those books is not "Censorship", it's simply not hosting books they deem inappropriate (which is their right to do). If you have a website or a business with a website, then you have the right to NOT link to sites or articles which you completely disagree with or find inappropriate. If Google went around banning those books from every library, bookstore, and online bookstore -- then it would be censorship. They're not a government institution, and they're not a monopoly. Let them do whatever
      • Due to this court decision, they are a monopoly in this particular case. That would be the problem.

        • by HiThere (15173)

          Not only are they a monopoly, within the year they are revealing themselves as an abusive monopoly.

          Monopolies are inherently dangerous. Sometimes they are, perhaps, necessary...though one should always try to avoid them. But abusive monopolies should be immediately destroyed.

        • by WgT2 (591074)

          Where can I get more information about this case? Because, it seems like if a book is written and copyrighted after this case's decision that Google will have access to that book whether I want them to or not. Or, is it that there will now be some corporate registry that the author would have to navigate to exclude their work from Google's clutches.

          Thanks for any redirection/correction.

          • I had a lot of questions, too, so I tracked down the person who knows more about the settlement than anyone else in the world, except for the lawyers, plaintiffs, and defendants on the case who are locked behind a non-disclosure agreement. You might find my interview interesting. The short answer is that Google doesn't get the rights to any books that may become "orphaned" after January 2009.
        • by PMuse (320639)

          Google is not a monopoly with respect to these books because Google cannot prevent you from scanning the books yourself, getting sued yourself, and reaching your own settlement with the authors. If you want to host these books, you will be in the same position in 2010 (post-Google) that you were in in 2008 (pre-Google) -- you need to clear the hosting rights with the authors.

          • Except that Google is indemnified from lawsuits by authors that it never contacted in the first place, whereas anybody else that tries to scan books is not. Google did not simply reach a settlement with all the authors it pissed off: Google bought the ability to not get sued by the 6.8 million rightsholders who do not know about the settlement yet. Google reached a deal with the "Author's Guild;" not individual authors. Otherwise, each author could conceivably claim $150,000 in damages for each scan. N
      • by Gat0r30y (957941) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:05PM (#27748291) Homepage Journal

        If Google went around banning those books from every library, bookstore, and online bookstore -- then it would be censorship.

        Google will maintain rights to the books it deems inappropriate even though they are not hosting them.

    • by fermion (181285)
      Well, I think this book is a bit of inappropriate conservative circle jerk fodder [wnd.com][Check out the part where he complains an international company won't cowtow to US bullying, but will celebrate internationally recognized days like Earth day. It just isn't fair. They took our jobs! I am surprised he did complain about guy fawkes day].

      OTOH, it is still there. [google.com]

  • by beanyk (230597) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:55PM (#27747371)

    A group of authors, including Philip K. Dick's estate, has tried to delay the settlement for four more months until they get their minds around the issue.

    I'd have thought that anyone related to Philip K. Dick would be able to wrap their mind around -anything-.

    • by Sockatume (732728)
      They've obviously got some sort of delusions if they presented themselves as an author. Did Dick's work turn them into an ersatz consciousness to carry on his work or something?
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @12:58PM (#27747405) Homepage

    was Farenheit 451 on the list of "inappropriate" books?

  • Given that much of this stuff will be older, and given the general relaxation of a number of social mores over time, I'd be interested to know what "inappropriate" will mean.

    All but the freakiest historical porn is more or less newstand ready(though, as in pre-code Hollywood, the past is not always so prudish as supposed). On the other hand, the sort of stuff that qualified as a refined academic treatise upon the qualities and character of the negroid races would probably raise eyebrows anywhere outside o
  • by JTsyo (1338447) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:03PM (#27747475) Journal
    How to Prepare Children for Witches
    Designing a Meth Lab
    The Demise of America under Corporations
  • by N7DR (536428) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:06PM (#27747515) Homepage

    What I don't understand, as an author who holds copyright in at least one book that is out of print, is: how can a lawsuit to which I am not a party give *my* rights under copyright law to someone else?

    That seems to be fundamentally wrong.

    Tangentially, I find it somewhere between interesting and amusing (or perhaps scary) that Google appears to have made no attempt to contact me, despite the fact that I'm hardly the most difficult person to find.

    Even more tangentially, there doesn't seem to be any place to go to see if google has actually digitized a book in which I have rights. Someone please correct me if there's a way to do that. (But in any case, why should I be the one who has to go and see if they've infringed rights? They are the ones who are supposed to seek permission from me.)

    Frankly, this whole "settlement" seems utterly unconscionable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mea37 (1201159)

      Funny thing about class action... are you sure you aren't a party to the lawsuit?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by NeoSkandranon (515696)

        You know, I thought that when I replied to the OP too, but in, say, a class action suit brought against a company in which I own stock, I get a letter saying I need to opt in (essentially) to be a part of the settlement, if any. If I'm automatically part of the class why is that bit of communication necessary?

        • by Chyeld (713439) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .dleyhc.> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:19PM (#27748517)

          How Class Action Lawsuits Work [web-access.net]

          Specificly:

          The court directs that notice be given to all parties having a similar claim for the duration of a particular time period. They are to be notified (generally by the defendents' attorneys) so that they may be informed and have input into the case. This is where all parties, including the person or persons who bring the claim, are treated equally. This means that all class members are supposed to have equal input, rights to any monies, remedies ordered by the court, and so forth.

          There are often several notices mailed to class members over the course of the case. The first notice is to accomplish the above - plus the added purpose of giving a person the option to "opt-out" (not be a party in the case) and not be represented by the party who established this case and is issuing the notice.

          If a party "opts out," they have no further standing in the case. They can forget the matter or bring an action on their own behalf.
          Neither option gives them right to any damages won in the original case.

          If a party does NOT "opt-out," they are generally deemed to be a party to the case, are bound by the settlement, and prohibited in taking any further action on the matter.

          If you don't get notice and have no idea of what is going on ... too bad! The court normally is required to direct that the "best notice practical under the circumstances " be given (normally mail, sometimes publication). Again, if you don't receive or find the notice and the "opt-out" date passes ... again, too bad!

          At this point, you're "in" and bound by the courts decision. The case proceeds, sometimes for years. If you never received notice, you'll more than likely never know about any monies or other remedies to which you may be entitled.

        • by mea37 (1201159)

          Well, I'm not familiar with your particular examples of cuorse, but in general it's like this:

          A class is defined, and if you conform to the definition, then you are by default part of the class. This means that once a settlement is reached, you cannot raise a separate action, and you are bound by any terms of the settlement that would impact your rights.

          HOWEVER, if the settlement includes compensation for the class members, then receiving such compensation is usually opt-in. By default you get nothing, be

    • Google isn't contacting you because you're too small fry.
      Anyway, what I don't get is what this summary means. Is it talking about "censorship", about porn, or about digital rights management/copyright issues. The summary seems to vacillate between either of those interpretations, and most people here immediately seem to assume "censorship", but I don't really see how they can conclude that with any degree of certainty.
      Reading the article (which is pretty badly written) it seems to be about "porn" mostly,
      • You should probably read the interview or listen to it before you start having opinions about the contents.
    • by Gat0r30y (957941)
      Perhaps you could just get your book labeled as 'inappropriate'. They would then pull it down right?
    • by pavon (30274) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:54PM (#27748129)

      When a class action lawsuit is approved to go forward, then anyone and everyone defined in that class is bound by the terms of the eventual settlement unless they specifically opt-out in writing. The lawyers bringing the class action suit are supposed to contact the members of the class, but when the class is so large, this often only happens by means of a few postings in trade literature, or some commercials run on TV or the like.

      A similar thing happened to my parents. They (foolishly) bought a car on a lease-to-own program, where a certain amount of what you pay in the lease is supposed to apply to the eventual purchase price. Well, in addition to being a bad deal to begin with, the dealership did even not live up to these terms and also played games like applying additional payments toward future interest incurred instead of the principle. They broke their contract and the law in several instances cheating my parents (and all their other customers) out of thousands of dollars each.

      Anyway some lawyer decided to bring a class action lawsuit against them for this, and eventually "won". The result - the lawyer got a ton of money, each of the screwed customers got like $50 and the dealership got off for a fraction of what they had cheated their customers out of. The laywer claimed he mailed letters to all the customers affected by this notifying them of the class action (my parents were specifically listed as such a customer as found in discovery), but they don't ever remember getting such a thing. The first they heard about it was when they tried to bring legal action against the dealership and were told they couldn't because they had been part of a class settlement, but they could contact the lawyer and request their share of that settlement if they wished.

      Class action lawsuits may have been created with good intention, but the actual outcome is enrich scummy lawyers and to indemnify corporations against lawsuits for cheap.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by badfish99 (826052)

      Your rights under copyright law come entirely from the government and legal system: without copyright laws, you would have no such rights at all. So, just as the government can choose to keep granting more and more rights to some favoured parties (the music industry), so it can choose to arbitrarily take copyright rights away from other people (such as you). If you didn't want that to happen, you should have bribed some politicians.

      I know it seems unfair, but that seems to be the way it works.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pbhj (607776)

        Your rights under copyright law come entirely from the government and legal system: [...] so it can choose to arbitrarily take copyright rights away from other people (such as you). If you didn't want that to happen, you should have bribed some politicians.

        I know it seems unfair, but that seems to be the way it works.

        The US is a signatory to the Berne Convention so they should ensure that local rules are consistent with the requirements of Berne. So, in that sense they can't arbitrarily choose to take copyrights away from you without breaching international law. You'd have a case against the US Government I think. IANACL.

  • They'd have chipped the wang off the Statue of David. Let's see, who else do I know that had a policy of making "Inappropriate" works of art disappear? Oh yes... The Taliban.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No point in singeling out the Taliban. Almost all religions and almost all governments have done this at least once in their history.

  • by wfstanle (1188751) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:19PM (#27747677)

    So Google wishes to censor books that are deemed to be "inappropriate"? This begs the question... Who gets to determine what is inappropriate? There are many definitions in the world about what is inappropriate and Google is an international company. Who do we ask to sit on the board? I'm sure that anyone who is picked will be objectionable to someone.

  • Author! Author! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:23PM (#27747713)

    A group of authors, including Philip K. Dick's estate

    Huh. Which books did Philip K. Dick's estate write?

  • Um, authors? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 8tim8 (623968) on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @01:38PM (#27747883) Journal

    >A group of authors, including Philip K. Dick's estate...

    In that single collection of words is everything that's wrong with our copyright system...

    • >A group of authors, including Philip K. Dick's estate...

      In that single collection of words is everything that's wrong with our copyright system...

      Nonsense. It doesn't include the terms "Sonny Bono" and "Disney".

  • Waving the censorship flag is a bit overzealous. IMO google is choosing carefully which books to include in its project. They're neither a library, nor a government - why should they archive every book under the sun? Did any of us expect to be able to find and search every book ever published? It's more a question of merit. Why waste the space on children's origami books, or every edition of "Upgrading and Repairing PCs". However, I would still like to see that list. It would shed some light on the opi
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HiThere (15173)

      They should be REQUIRED to scan and host every book under they sun because they have been granted the status of a governmentally approved monopoly by the court decision that allows them to scan and host the books if they choose to.

  • It seams to be more about image than censorship, they are allowing other (which is retarded as others should be allowed anyway) to host book they don't want their name associated with. Refusing to stock hardcore porn in a library (preserving the image of the library) is very different from banning hardcore porn anywhere (censorship).

  • by Tteddo (543485)
    All I really want to know is what Harlan Ellison thinks.
    He's a beacon of light in our troubled forest of copyright.
  • So Google commits the most blatant act of copyright infringement in the history of mankind - basically stealing 7 million books and posting them on the Internet (with "limitations", which will be quickly circumvented with some clever Google "mash-up"). Someone steps forward, claims to represent the entire class of authors who has been wronged, accepts a pitiful "settlement" (well, it's pitiful if you are one of 7 million authors who are going to be paid $60 for your hard work, the $30 million cut for the lawyers is pretty impressive), and now the authors have two choices:

    1. Accept a really crappy deal.
    2. Sue one of the largests corporations on Earth, which can point to the 6.99 million plus other authors who took (or at least, didn't opt out of) the lousy deal and say, "This is what everyone else thought these rights were worth."

    Meanwhile, a 12-year old downloads a crappy pop song onto her grandparent's blueberry iMac, and the RIAA gets to extort thousands of dollars out of dear old Grandma.

    Why is "Hit Me Baby One More Time" worth so much more than something like "Innovation: The Attacker's Advantage [amazon.com]"? And if it isn't, why can a bunch of lawyers step in for 7 million people and accept a crappy deal?

    • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday April 28, 2009 @02:16PM (#27748461) Homepage Journal

      And if it isn't, why can a bunch of lawyers step in for 7 million people and accept a crappy deal?

      It isn't a crappy deal. Not really. Oh, the cash is pitiful, but the terms are good for authors and readers both. Publishers are going to lose out, eventually, but that makes sense because they're becoming unnecessary.

      The biggest change this settlement creates is for authors whose works are currently out of print. These are people who currently aren't making anything for their books. Not only do they get a little in the settlement, they also get a new opportunity for their work to be read, and even sold.

      I expect even authors who are in print to benefit, though, for the same reasons that Baen's Free Library has proven to be such a windfall for both Baen and the authors who volunteered their works for the library. The very biggest obstacle any author has to overcome isn't a way to make sure they get royalty checks, it's obscurity. Once a significant number of people know and enjoy an author's work, making a living from writing is easy.

      The settlement will increase access, but will do it in a format that's inconvenient and unpleasant for reading, and in a way that's just a few clicks and a few dollars away from an actual printed copy -- and a subsequent royalty check delivered to the author.

      Time will tell, but my prediction is that most in-print authors will choose to opt *in* to full access through Google Reader, and their bank accounts will be glad they did.

      Meanwhile, the REAL purpose of copyright is fantastically well-served by this agreement. Note that the purpose of copyright has nothing to do with compensating authors, the real purpose is to encourage broad publication, and to maximize the access of the public to new works and new ideas. To do that, we need to provide just enough incentive to get writers to write, and an easy and efficient publication mechanism. This settlement preserves the opportunity for authors to make money (motivating them to write more) while making their works much easier to find and obtain.

  • A group of authors, including Philip K. Dick's estate

    Philip K. Dick's estate is an author?

    This is a big part of what's wrong with copyright.

  • Google has been build upon free software, now they are just a big abusive monopoly.

    Linus should put the Linux kernel under the GPL v3 Affero license. End of Google abuse.

  • Once again...the hordes come out and cry censorship...
    Book is out of print...
    Google doesn't post book online...
    Censorship at Google!

    Are you f'ing serious? So...people should demand that Google digitizes every book ever so that they aren't censoring? Ahh yes...let us all get the pitchforks and torches and force Google to do what we want...after all...that kind of totalitarian control is WAY better than censorship right guys?

    Seriously...can someone please explain to me how not digitizing a book that
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by HiThere (15173)

      Yes, it's censorship. If Google, and only Google, has the right to scan and host a book, then for Google not to do it is censorship.

      If it weren't for the absurd decision of the court then I would agree that it wasn't censorship. As, however, the government has granted this monopoly to Google, then for Google to refuse to publish a work is censorship.

      I, personally, think that this decision is absurd, illegal, and unfair to everyone except Google and the lawyers. And I'm dubious that the court had the lega

      • by russotto (537200)

        The authors' guild doesn't represent all authors, and it may well not even represent most authors. (I'll grant it probably represents all the authors in the English speaking world who make most of their income from writing.[...])

        I don't even think it does that; for instance, I don't think genre authors are typically Authors Guild members.

  • How about Michael de Mare's Confessions of a Recovering Preppie [michaeldemare.com]? It was given a 0/10 on a Slashdot book review [slashdot.org].

  • I don't think this is a great situation, but it's probably the least bad situation we could end up with.

    It's our own fault (collectively anyway) since we let copyright maximalists set the agenda. The issue became what should the owners get from this deal, rather than what society's claim on orphaned works ought to be. Ideally we would have had a law written that allowed some sort of scheme to deal with orphaned works, but instead we end up with a situation that benefits the means to set up the legal chara

  • What's this about a rights auction? Another attempt to lock expired copyrights back up?

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