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Frequently Asked Questions about the Google Book Settlement

by Lynn Chu

It is frightening that the business affairs of all of America's authors are in the hands of a single judge, who might now "sign" everyone to a "deal" a couple of NGOs on a fame/power/money kick decided to "make," "for" us, wresting our rights from our own hands. They will hand Google 50% of certain limited display rights revenues—and, undiscussed, 100% of all other undisclosed products and services Google develops with its exclusive, permanent possession of everyone's derivative work, the scans. Which Google brazenly stole as every other computer company obeyed the copyright law like decent citizens. The following are some questions that authors need to ask themselves about what is really going on in this long piece of self-serving legislation. Why for instance are only authors and libraries burdened by broad rights waivers at law, and crushing duties that they forever now will owe to Google, and to its claims department, the publisher-dominated "Registry."

1. How much in commission does the Registry get?

2. We were told that the Registry’s commission would be “about” 10%. Is this firm? Can this be raised without my approval? Can I negotiate with the Registry to cap this commission?

3. Will I receive a rebate if Registry expenses aren’t as much as 10%?

4. How much will the Registry take from my proceeds in expenses, if these are regarded as separate from the commission? Can I have approval?

5. If the Registry pays out incorrectly, will it reimburse me, if it was their fault? Does this Settlement bar me from suing the Registry for negligence or fraud?

6. Will Google maintain individual owner accounts?

7. I want to know all my hits, views, unique reader counts, and referrer data. Since this is all on computer, I’d like this information monthly, as well grand summaries to date historically, filterable by time period from my personal, secure online account. Will my sales be shown by sales type, price to the consumer, all charges by Google and charge type, accounts receivable, estimated date of receipt, accounts received and date credited, with the same data with respect to the Registry?

8. What was the 37% to Google based on? Why so much more than Apple iTunes at 33%, scribd.com and lulu.com at 20%, and myebook.com at 10%?

9. I want approval over all advertising placing themselves next to my material, either my name, book title, snippets, gateway pages, or pages of text. Can I be notified in advance and stop individuals I do not want associated with me or my works from doing so? I have a “no ads in book” clause in my contract.

10. Please list all of the types of pages on which my name or title of my work or snippets or summaries or pages therefrom, that are excluded from the payment of any ad revenue to me.

12. From the above categories, I still want to disapprove advertisers who ask to be put next to my work. May I do so?

13. I want to turn off all scanning or dynamic search through my data. May I do this?

14. I want to allow scanning or searching through my data only by those who will pay me an annual fee for my permission to scan through my data. May I be assured that I have this right?

15. I want to set exactly which pages will be viewable of each of my works. May I do this?

16. I want to set how long each of the above displays will be on, and the date and time on which each will go dark. May I do this, since computers make it so easy?

17. My publisher and I disagree about who controls my work. Under the law I do, but your arbitrator says my contract reads differently. There was no meeting of the minds on electronic when I signed this book contract in 1992. My publisher is abusively turning my book off. I want it on. May I do this?

18. My contract is lost. My publisher’s contract form is modified by later amendments that I’ve lost but remember clearly. They mentioned something about electronic but now that I see my publisher is removing 75% of its receipts. I think that’s unfair. There was no such market or product when I signed my book contract. I want the Registry to stop paying this publisher Google funds. I think the law is clear that my publisher is owed nothing. Are my rights to argue what my book contract says still intact? Or am I bound by Registry controlled arbitration?

19. Why are my author ownership rights less important and more infringeable than my publisher’s so that my out of print book is infringed but their in print book is not? My publisher’s rights derive only from me under a contract made years ago concerning a hardcover and paperback.

20. If I “register” my works, am I considered contractually bound to anything? Can I please see a copy written in plain English of everything that I am to be considered bound to? Is that this Settlement Agreement? Am I bound by subsequent documents or policies dictated by the Registry later?

21. Is the Settlement Agreement a contract binding in every way upon me personally? Does it amend my book contract? What if it contradicts my book contract?

22. Can I still sue my publisher in federal court for claiming Google money? Can I sue the Registry? Can I sue Google for allowing hackers to totally destroy the value of my work after it is hacked off their servers in the future due to their own negligence?

23. What is Google’s total liability cap concerning all disputes regarding their use of my work in the future? If I make a claim through the Registry process, can I argue my own case and the damages to me personally? Or must I accept a sum diluted with claims of others that someone decides resembles mine?

24. Are all future class actions against the Registry or Google relating to my work barred by the Settlement Agreement? What kinds of class actions would not be barred?

25. Why were the publishers represented by a top white shoe New York corporate firm, and authors represented by a Philadelphia class action litigator? Are authors’ copyrights and contract and business affairs adequately protected by this kind of representation?

26. How does the Registry change common law on how contracts are read to eliminate fairness in the light of all circumstances of a case? Doesn’t this document say instead that the literal words of the old contract rules, instead?

27. What is the 5-year cap on all pay to use selections? Why can’t the owner be compensated based on actual use, since computers track this precisely. Where did you get 80% of all tracked uses in an anthology to the anthologist and 20% split by all the contributors? If just one essay or poem gets all the hits, how is this fair?

Lynn Chu is a lawyer/literary agent at Writers’ Representatives LLC and counsel of the Bloom objectors to the proposed Google Book Settlement.

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