European Commission hearing on Google Books Settlement

By EDRi · September 9, 2009

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Deutsch: [Anhörung der Europäische Kommission über die Google Books-Einigung |]

The EU Google Books hearing highlighted some very serious concerns
with the settlement, but mainly from a rights holder point of view.

The hearing itself addressed two quite distinct sets of issues;
firstly concerns of EU rights holders with the USA agreement, and how
they feel their rights are affected by that agreement. The aim for
these speakers was to push the EU to uphold their exclusive rights
under copyright, which they feel have been infringed, particularly by
scanning and also by making works available without prior consent.
Works where EU rights holders are not found may fall into this category.

The second set of issues however should be more important for EU
legislators: how to make books available for search and sale in
Europe. The paths forward on this are less easy, but it appears that
some sort of reform to allow the exploitation of ‘orphan works’ is
seen as a strong likelihood.

What seems less likely is an exception for scanning, search and
indexing of published copyright content. Yet this may be the best
answer to competition questions, by allowing a clearer path for new
services to use copyright content, perhaps including video, audio and
music in the future.

Similar questions may be raised around collective licensing
agreements. Very little was said about the national nature of
copyright, or about attempting to allow pan-European licensing, which
has been a severe barrier to music services in the EU.

Competition was raised as a concern, but genuine changes that might
allow competitors to develop were not discussed in depth compared with
the many voices from rights holders with varying levels of concern
about loss of control, and violation of international copyright.

On the wider questions of academic use, many questions were not
answered. There was a similar story with privacy issues. These are
social questions, which need the application of social values from
civil society and politicians. Privacy for the data produced by such a
fundamental service may need to be better defined in law. From that
point of view, the number of MEPs attending was disappointing low, as
was the number of consumer groups speaking.

The major civil society voice was that of librarians, who had
important points to make. Worries were raised about preservation of
content in the event of Google’s demise and the current ability of
researchers to analyse the data that Google has collected. They argued
that copyright limitations must stand above contracts. Librarians made
strong points about the need for reading habits to be kept private.
They argued for the need of developing countries to be able to access
the information that has been accumulated.

While Google Books is very contentious between those whose rights are
affected, the wider questions of availability and access to knowledge
were only really addressed by librarians and ORG in the hearing. It
was apparent that some changes to copyright law may be sought, but
they are likely to be the minimum needed to allow this particular type
of service to develop, rather than something wide enough to liberate a
fuller range of opportunities for people wanting to use copyright
works and contribute to the EU’s economy.

Open Rights Group’s speech on to European Commission hearing on Google Books
Settlement (7.09.2009)

“It is time for Europe to turn over a new e-leaf on digital books and
copyright”. Joint Statement of EU Commissioners Reding and McCreevy on the
occasion of this week’s Google Books meetings in Brussels (7.09.2009)

Bringing the world’s lost books back to life (7.09.2009)

(Contribution by Jim Killock – Executive Director EDRi-member ORG)