Julie Hilden on the Authors’ Guild Suit [5:39 pm]
In this column, I will address four questions: Should this suit be certified as a class action? What should Google’s position be on class certification? (We know the plaintiffs position: They want it.) Who’s likely to win this suit? And, assuming the suit is certified as a class action, should individual authors opt in, or opt out?
[...] Besides being a writer, I’m also a strong free speech advocate, and Google’s project may well help free speech more than it hurts it. I want to see the advance of human knowledge much more than I want to get paid for making my books searchable. The fact that they might become searchable, to me, is a welcome surprise.
[...] So in the end, rather than joining the challenge to Google’s Library Project, I’d like to pose a challenge to Google: When are you going to apply your genius to eBooks?
Having scanned all those books in already, wouldn’t you like to distribute them too? Of course, for that, you would need a copyright license - but I think many authors would give you one for a low fee.
In the future, Google’s Project might even do for eBooks what Apple did with Itunes: Provide a sample of a work, as an inducement to download the whole thing at a modest cost, and entirely legally.
Because of hopes for innovations like this - which will bring authors profits, protect copyrights, and potentially democratize book-writing, much as music has been democratized - authors may be shortsighted if they support the Authors’ Guild suit.