March 28, 2009 by Katharine Lacey
Kate Lacey is a first year law student at Osgoode Hall taking the “Legal Values: Challenges in Intellectual Property” course.
As part of their settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, Google has developed the Books Rights Registry, an apparently independent, non-profit entity designed to collect revenue from Google Book Search and distribute it amongst copyright holders. Google has been praised, or at least praises itself, for this part of the settlement because it gives copyright holders of out of print work a new source of revenue and it theoretically helps the orphan works problem by creating incentive for people to take control of their copyright. By figuring out a way to safely make use of orphaned works, Google is in some way succeeding where Orphan Works legislation has so far failed. However, orphaned works are public issue, as continued attempts to legislate it might indicate. By creating a private solution, the Book Rights Registry and the settlement agreement are illegitimately assuming a huge amount of control.