Google’s e-library on fire

Even as it has been fighting China on Internet openness, Google is embroiled in a litigation in which publishers and authors from around the world,including India, have accused it of violating copyright in its quest to create the world’s largest online library.

Joining a global campaign against the latest version of Global Book Settlement (GBS 2.0), Indian Repographic Rights Organisation (IRRO), which is the official copyright society for Indian authors and publishers, and Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP) filed their objections at a New York district court on Thursday, the deadline for doing so.

GBS 2.0 gives Google copyright immunity to distribute millions of books online, in exchange for sharing the revenue it generates with the rights holders. With the introduction this week, Apple’s iPad Tablet expected to enhance the popularity of digital books, GBS 2.0, which gives a first mover advantage to Google, is being vehemently opposed by the search giant’s rivals such as Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo!.

The deal has divided opinion among copyright owners as some of authors and publishers have welcomed it as a fresh stream of revenue. One of the most controversial aspects of GBS 2.0 is “opt out”, a mechanism which puts the onus on copyright owners to keep their books out of the purview of this Google innovation. As IRRO’s statement put it, “This implies that if a person is silent, he is deemed to have consented to an agreement.”

According to IRRO, Indian authors, without any representation of their interests, would be affected by the secret negotiations that a few US-based publishers have had with Google. While GBS 2.0 is ostensibly limited to books published in the US, UK, Canada and Australia, the deal would impact the rest of the world too as any author published in any of the four named countries would be covered by it.

In the keenly contested US litigation, the detractors of the Google deal gained strength when the governments of Germany and France filed objections. The US government is due to disclose its stand to the court by February 4.


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