Sunday, January 25, 2009

The ALA Google Panel

On Saturday at ALA, the ALA Washington Office Committee on Copyright held a panel about the Google AAP settlement. Panelists were: Dan Clancy, of Google, Paul Courant, of University of Michigan, Laura Quilter, librarian and lawyer, and me. Both Clancy and Courant were involved in the negotiations with AAP and therefore have inside knowledge of the discussions and ins and outs, but both are also bound by a non-disclosure agreement, so there is only so much they can say.

What I mainly learned at this panel is that we (librarians and public) need much more information about this settlement, and that information is not in the settlement document. I also learned that we are unlikely to get that information until after the settlement is approved (assuming it will be approved, but who knows).

Some snippets, and then later I'll write up my talk (of which I only gave a very brief rendition at the panel) and post it later. (Note, I may add others during the day as I remember them.):
  1. The role of the Registry is to represent the rights holders.
  2. The rights holders appear to be quite nervous about libraries.
  3. Although anything can potentially be negotiated, Google will do the negotiating with the Registry for any requests for product features.
  4. At the moment, the following are not allowed: library purchases of books, library lending of books, use of books for ILL.
  5. Also not allowed is remote access for public library subscriptions to the service -- the problem with this, in the eyes of the rights holders, is that public library services (because they serve the whole public) would compete with the public as customers for purchase of the books.
  6. Google itself is not thrilled about becoming a library vendor, because it recognizes that it's not a big bucks market and it doesn't fit into the Google business model well. (At one point Dan mentioned that getting checks for $5000 from public libraries isn't very appealing.)


jrochkind said...

Karen, when you have a chance, can you give us a list of the things you think we need to know that we don't now? A list of questions maybe.

I had indeed suspected that serving libraries wasn't particularly in Google's business interests, and that libraries got what they did in the settlement (actually, still, from my point of view, quite a bit) was the result of a combination of Google's PR interest and the effective participation of libraries in the settlement process (which they only got a chance to do becaue of Google's PR interest, really).

Indeed it was clear from the settlement that the role of the Registry was to represent rights-holders. It's sort of the RIAA of books. But good to be clear about it.

Karen Coyle said...


Yes, the list of open questions is a MUST! I'll write up the ones that came up at the meeting, but I would like to set up a page where people can weigh in. Do you have a wiki space where we can do that? Should I set up something on a public wiki? I'll also ping ALA Washington on this to see if they can host it and make it visible.

At the meeting I suggested that we need an FAQ (many of which will not have answers) but Dan of Google informed us that Google cannot participate in something like that until the agreement goes through the courts. So this will be a grass roots effort, by necessity.

Emily F. said...

I agree, Karen, that many questions did arise from the panel discussion. I, too, took extensive notes during the panel. How can we get Google and the other parties involved in the suit to share with use those huge pieces of information that are missing from the documentation? What kinds of questions and how can we ask those questions?

What particularly came to light to me was the extent to which Google is simply going to "let the market decide" for what to fight in these legal agreements.

Thanks so much for being a panel participant. I truly appreciated your ten minutes and think that you and Laura together were able to pose some very good challenging questions and let the community start to approach the problems in the settlement.