May 15, 2009

Pamela Samuelson's Letter to the Google Books Settlement Judge

From the Chronicle of Higher Education

Scholars Are Wary of Deal on Google's Book Search

By Jennifer Howard

"This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means."

That's the narrator of Charles Dickens's Bleak House, describing Jarndyce v. Jarndyce, the legal case that "drones on" — and on and on. Substitute the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers versus Google's Book Search program, and the observation still applies. The complexity of the case in federal court — and the settlement the parties have proposed — has kept lawyers, librarians, publishers, and writers scrambling to sort out what it all means.

Add to that list many academic authors, who don't understand the settlement well enough to see how it might affect them. Yet the consequences could profoundly change the world of research and scholarship, warns a group of professors in a letter sent to Denny Chin, the federal judge in charge of the case, on April 27....

That distinction is made loud and clear in the letter sent to Judge Chin. Organized by Pamela Samuelson, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law [and School of Information], the group points to "widespread ignorance about the agreement and its implications for the future of scholarship and research" among their academic colleagues.

In a conversation, Ms. Samuelson emphasized that she and the other co-signers see the advantages of making millions of books available through a digitization project like Google Book Search. They do not reject the settlement out of hand. They just want their colleagues in academe to appreciate what's at stake. "People I've talked to have been pretty confused about it, and they don't know how to properly assess the pros and cons," she told me. "Academics have a lot of things they'd rather do than wade through a couple hundred pages" of legalese....



Last updated:

October 4, 2016