President of Authors Guild defends GBS settlement

In a letter to fellow authors, Roy Blount, President of the Authors Guild, defends the Google Books settlement. He directly addresses the concern that the settlement will give Google a monopoly over “orphan works”:

Let’s examine the dissenters’ concern. This alleged monopoly will be of a special kind of book. The book will be out of print, that is, it will already have been deemed unfit for continued commerce by traditional print publishers. No one currently has a monopoly on the book, because there is no market for the book: no one can get it, except at the library or in a used book store. So Google is essentially being accused of cornering the market on the unmarketable.

Blount goes on to note that orphan works make up only a subset of the market, and then argues that finding authors/rightsholders for out-of-print works is typically not so difficult.

He also claims that Google’s monopoly on orphan works will diminish every year, as the Books Rights Registry locates authors and starts sending royalty checks:

As the Registry starts sending out checks, books will exit the orphanage in a rush. Nothing gets an author’s attention like a royalty check. It’s not an orphan books problem that this settlement presents, it’s an orphan books solution.

Finally, he also accuses the GBS dissenters of a willingness to throw out many other benefits of the GBS settlement in an attempt to prevent an ostensible orphan monopoly.

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