Google and “Lost” Copyright Holders

But copyright isn’t an obstruction to innovation; it would be easy for any innovator to get financing for this effort, right? And, of course, these copyrights are worth more than it’ll cost Google to clear them, right? Now that’s productivity — the backbone of the US economy: Google’s Digitized Book Project Hinges on a Retro Kind of Search (pdf)

Google, the online giant, had been sued in federal court by a large group of authors and publishers who claimed that its plan to scan all the books in the world violated their copyrights.

As part of the class-action settlement, Google will pay $125 million to create a system under which customers will be charged for reading a copyrighted book, with the copyright holder and Google both taking percentages; copyright holders will also receive a flat fee for the initial scanning, and can opt out of the whole system if they wish.

But first they must be found.

Since the copyright holders can be anywhere and not necessarily online — given how many books are old or out of print — it became obvious that what was needed was a huge push in that relic of the pre-Internet age: print.

So while there is a large direct-mail effort, a dedicated Web site about the settlement in 36 languages (googlebooksettlement.com/r/home) and an online strategy of the kind you would expect from Google, the bulk of the legal notice spending — about $7 million of a total of $8 million — is going to newspapers, magazines, even poetry journals, with at least one ad in each country. These efforts make this among the largest print legal-notice campaigns in history.