Open Book Alliance Members and Others Urge House Judiciary Committee to Carefully Scrutinize Google Book Settlement

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SAN FRANCISCO, September 9, 2009 – Members of the Open Book Alliance and several other organizations today joined together in submitting a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, urging it to carefully review and scrutinize the proposed Google Book Settlement and its implications for authors, copyright holders, schools, libraries and the public.

The letter, which was organized by the Open Book Alliance, was delivered to House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. John Conyers and Committee member Rep. Lamar Smith in advance of that committee’s hearing on Thursday, September 10 concerning the proposed settlement.

The letter was signed by more than 20 organizations, including all 11 members of the Open Book Alliance, showing the breadth and depth of opposition to the proposed settlement. Among the signatories are several library organizations, including the New York Library Association, Illinois Library Association, New York Alliance of Library Systems, Ohio Library Council, and Special Libraries Association.

The full text of the letter, including the signatories, can be found below, or at

The Open Book Alliance is a coalition of librarians, legal scholars, authors, publishers, and technology companies created to counter the proposed Google Book Settlement in its current form. The Open Book Alliance can be found online at, and on Twitter @OBAlliance.

Text of Letter to House Judiciary Committee:

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Committee on the Judiciary
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Lamar Smith
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Conyers and Rep. Smith:

We understand that, on September 10, the House Judiciary Committee, under your leadership, will hold a hearing on the proposed settlement of a copyright infringement class action lawsuit brought against Google. We urge you to give careful scrutiny to the important copyright and competition policy issues the proposed settlement raises and to consider legislative or regulatory measures that could address the fundamental unfairness of this attempt to make public policy through litigation.

The undersigned organizations and companies – representing authors, libraries, non-profits and corporate interests — believe the proposed settlement threatens to monopolize the access to and distribution and pricing of the largest, private digital database of books in the world. It would do so by using the class action mechanism to not only redress past harm, but to prospectively shape the future of digital book distribution, display and search.

Each of our organizations and companies strongly supports the effort to expand the availability of knowledge through promoting access to digitized books. But we do not believe this proposed settlement represents a fair, appropriate or desirable way to achieve that end. The proposed settlement, undertaken to redress a single legal claim, threatens to raise prices and restrict the public’s access to digital books, disproportionately impact small libraries and academic institutions, including those serving rural, economically disadvantaged and minority communities, and threaten the rights of authors and small publishers.

  • The proposed settlement harms consumers by thwarting competition and ignoring privacy concerns. It creates a digital book monopoly that will inevitably lead to fewer choices and higher prices for consumers of digital books. The settlement would allow a group of competing publishers and rights owners to collectively set prices and would leave Google as the only company with a the right to copy, display or sell digital versions of millions of so-called “orphan” works (books for which authors or rights holders cannot be identified or located). The settlement does nothing to ensure that Google does not use information about what books people are reading to make unfair profit or that it does not inappropriately share this knowledge with commercial interests or governments. Finally, the settlement is carefully structured to ensure that all of the covered digital content will be uniquely available to Google’s search engine, for refinement of their search algorithm as well as actual displayed results.
  • The settlement is bad for libraries and schools. While a handful of large and well-funded university libraries participated in the Google book-scanning effort, many other educational institutions and libraries will be forced to pay monopoly prices for access to the millions of books in the private Google database, straining already-stretched budgets and perpetuating a system of haves and have-nots in our nation’s education system.
  • The settlement is bad for authors and small publishers. Unless they act to opt out by the deadline, authors and other writers lose both rights and remedies enacted by Congress related to the fruits of their labor—a future in which they have no negotiating rights for the value of their work.
  • The settlement sets public policy through class action litigation. The proposed settlement far exceeds the bounds of a typical class action settlement by prospectively creating a digital book monopoly and effectively privatizing important copyright and other public policy decisions.

As the Committee’s past consideration of orphan works legislation and statutory mechanisms for encouraging the availability of works has demonstrated, there are fair ways, grounded in sound public policy, to ensure the protection of copyright, promote competition, and advance knowledge. We urge you, through careful review of the proposed settlement and its implications for all authors and rights holders, for the public, for schools and libraries, and for innovators, to begin the process toward shaping a more sound and equitable outcome.

American Consumer Institute
American Independent Writers
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP)
American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
Bear Star Press
Council of Literary and Magazine Presses
Illinois Library Association
Internet Archive
McPherson & Company, Publishers
Microsoft Corporation
National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981
New York Alliance of Library Systems
New York Library Association
Ohio Library Council
Open Book Alliance
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA)
Silverfish Review Press
Small Press Distribution
Special Libraries Association
Starcherone Books

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Important Dates

December 14, 2009
Notice begins

January 28, 2010
Deadline for authors to opt out of the settlement

January 28, 2010
Deadline to file objections and/or amicus briefs

February 4, 2010
Deadline to file notice of intent to appear at Fairness Hearing

February 4, 2010
DOJ response

February 11, 2010
Plaintiffs move for final approval

February 18, 2010
Final Fairness Hearing

March 31, 2011
Deadline to claim Books and Inserts