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Free Software Foundation Objects to Google Book Search Settlement

gnu.pngThe Free Software Foundation has filed an objection to the settlement in The Authors Guild, Inc., et al. v. Google Inc. because it believes that the settlement fails to address the needs of authors that release books under the GNU Free Documentation License and other free licenses.

While the purpose of copyright is usually to disallow people to distribute works, these free licenses instead encourage people to redistribute the work, asking only that redistributed versions of the work are also released under the same license. The settlement reached in the case would put works under the GFDL in the same group as works under full copyright restrictions. Under the settlement, Google will be given the right to display these works without being bound by the GFDL.

Brett Smith, license compliance engineer at FSF, states that:

“The Google Book Search settlement assumes that authors are only interested in being paid for publication rights of their works…However, authors using free licenses, like the GFDL and the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, have made it clear that they want to ensure that everyone can share and change their work. These licenses already give Google permission to display and publish the works. This settlement offers the company an escape clause to take works that have been permanently dedicated to a commons out of that commons, undermining both the purpose of these licenses and the wishes of the authors who use them.”

The objection states that:

“The settlement attempts to balance the various commercial interests in the publication and distribution of books but in doing so it ignores those concerned more with freedom than with the ability to earn profits through Google’s commercial ventures. When freely licensed books are distributed without regard for their terms, authors, publishers and readers are all harmed and the community’s unifying values are undermined. This harm cannot be adequately quantified or compensated or otherwise addressed in a royalty arrangement.”

The complete objection is available at

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