March 3, 2009
Dear Duke faculty members,
The recently announced settlement of the copyright infringement lawsuit brought against the
Google Books digitization project has garnered a good deal of media attention, but it has not
always been obvious that this agreement has serious implications for every author of a published
book, including many Duke faculty authors. The settlement will naturally have profound effects
on how libraries operate, especially in regard to digitization of materials, and on how research is
done. But its most immediate effect is to confront every author of a book published and
registered with the Copyright Office as of January 2009 with a decision that will impact their
personal ability to control future access to their works and the possibility of income from works
which have become “out of print.”
The settlement of this lawsuit, which was a class action brought on behalf of publishers and
authors who hold copyright, will bind every member of those two subclasses. This means that
any author who holds a copyright will be bound by the terms of the settlement unless they take
some action. The court is currently sending out notices to potential class members, and some
faculty may receive that notice. Others are expected to receive notice of the settlement through
national and regional publications. But regardless of how, or even if, authors hear about the
settlement, they must make a choice, and it must be made by May 5, 2009.
For most authors, it will make sense to remain in the class. This is the default option; it is what
will occur if the author does nothing. With that decision, the author agrees to be bound by the
terms of the agreement and retains the possibility of receiving small payments as the new,
commercial Google Books product is developed. Authors who make this decision, either
intentionally or by inaction, will need to register their claims in their books with the new Books
Rights Registry to receive any money.
There are two other options that authors can choose. One is to opt out of the settlement entirely,
so that they are neither bound by its terms nor able to benefit from it. This choice would
preserve your right to negotiate separately and to defend your copyright from infringement. The
other choice is to remain in the settlement class but file an objection with the court.
Finally, it is possible that some faculty authors will not have the chance to make any decision, if
they have transferred copyright to publishers and that copyright has not reverted to the author. In
those cases, the publisher will have the sole right to decide how the works will be treated.
This is obviously a complex issue, and I want to invite you to a seminar for Duke authors that
will explain and discuss the settlement and your options. On Tuesday, March 17 at 4 pm, Duke’s
Scholarly Communications Officer Kevin Smith will meet with any authors who are interested in
how the settlement will impact their rights. This meeting will take place in room 217 of the
Perkins Library, and is intended to help faculty who think they may have a stake in the settlement
decide if they do in fact need to respond to the agreement and, if so, what the full implications of
the different responses are.
Unless otherwise specified on this page, this work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.