Google Book Search Settlement: Public Access Service

One of the very relevant aspects of the Google Book Search Settlement Agreement to libraries is the provision that allows for free public access to the full text of books in public and academic libraries. The Notice of Settlement summary says: “Google will provide, on request, ‘Public Access’ licenses for free through a dedicated computer terminal at each public library building and through an agreed number of dedicated computer terminals at non-profit higher educational institutions located in the United States.” (Notice; Q9(F)(1)(c); p. 18) The details beyond the summary are quite a bit more interesting and, of course, have tidbits of useful information that isn’t in the summary.

Two notes before we get started. First, for readers who don’t normally follow DLTJ, this exploration of the Settlement is taken from a decidedly library (and library technologist) point of view. There are lots of bits that will probably be of greater interest to authors and publishers (like formula for determining how much compensation is due, etc.) that are not covered here. Second, this is a review of the document as it was submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in the case of The Author’s Guild et al v. Google Inc. The court needs to review and approve it, and details may change between now and then. There are lots of holes in the document — notably dates and URLs — that will need to filled in.

In the summary below, references to the Proposed Class Action Settlement take the form of the word “Settlement” followed by the question number and possibly the paragraph number plus the page number. For instance: “(Settlement: 3.1, p. 21)”. Likewise, references to the summary Notice of Proposed Class Action Settlement use the word “Notice” in the citation.

The Most Interesting Points


The complete text of the section is reproduced below. Here are the critical bits:

  • Each Public Library1 can have one access point per building.
  • Higher Education Institutions2 are divided into two tiers, based on the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education. Institutions that qualify as “Associate’s Colleges” can get one access point per 4,000 FTE students; everyone else gets one access point per 10,000 FTE students.
  • For higher education institutions, the definition includes the phrase “computer terminal may change from time to time”, but details about how to specify and/or change the access point are not included in the Settlement document.
  • Printing can be enabled for public access service points for a per-page fee, but the institution must have a way to collect that per-page fee and remit it to Google for forwarding to the Book Rights Registry (which doesn’t yet exist) to be split among the rightsholders. The per-page fee will be set by the Registry, and there doesn’t appear to be a need to report what was printed by users. How Google will actually collect this money is also not specified in the Settlement.
  • Google and the Registry may agree to make this public access service available to one or more public libraries or not-for-profit higher education institutions. This access can be free or for an annual fee; it isn’t clear how this would be different from an institutional subscription. (I’ll cover institutional subscriptions in a later DLTJ post.)

Since the per-page charge requires action by the Book Rights Registry, we probably shouldn’t expect the Public Access provision to be executed before the Registry is formed and its new board of directors has met. Formation of the Registry must be done by the “Effective Date” of the agreement, and the effective date of the agreement is after all parties have agreed to the settlement, the court dismisses the relevant actions against Google, and the time for filing appeals to the courts decision has passed. The date for the final approval hearing by the court has not been set yet.

There sure is a lot left undefined in this section about how such a program would work. How does an institution register? Who at an institution gets to decide which computer is used? A “computer terminal” (what I called an “access point”) presumably means a single IP address. One also presumes that the single IP address can’t be a proxy server of sorts that is enabling more than one user to have access at a time, but this isn’t explicitly stated. (And, believe me, there is a lot of stuff that is explicitly stated in the agreement.)

There is also some interesting mechanics. Are institutions going to be able to detect and charge more for prints from the public access Google Books station? Presumably institutions that have systems to charge for printing do so to recover the cost of consumables. Will such a system be able to charge for consumables and, under certain circumstances, charge more for the content itself?

Also tucked in this section is a bit about the possibility of a “Commercial Public Access Service” for “copy shops and other entities” (Settlement; 4.8(b); p. 61). Under the terms of the Settlement, the Registry and Google may choose to make this available for an annual fee based on concurrent users plus a fee per printed page. The notion of “print on demand” immediately leaps to mind, but that would seem to be covered on a special paragraph for print-on-demand (POD) under the heading of “New Revenue Models” (Settlement; 4.7(a); p. 59).

What the Settlement Says About “Public Access Service”


This is the actual text of the “Public Access Service” section of the settlement (Settlement; 4.8; pp. 60-61):

  1. Public Access Service.
    1. Free Public Access Service. Google may provide the Public Access Service to each not-for-profit Higher Education Institution and Public Library that so requests at no charge (and without any payment to the Rightsholders, through the Registry or otherwise (other than as set forth in Section 4.8(a)(ii) (Printing)) as follows:
      1. in the case of not-for-profit Higher Education Institutions that do not qualify as Associate’s Colleges pursuant to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, one computer terminal for every ten thousand (10,000) Full-Time Equivalency (i.e., full-time equivalent students) at each such institution (which computer terminal may change from time to time);
      2. in the case of not-for-profit Higher Education Institutions that qualify as Associate’s Colleges pursuant to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, one computer terminal for every four thousand (4,000) Full-Time Equivalency (i.e., full-time equivalent students) at each such institution (which computer terminal may change from time to time); and
      3. in the case of each Public Library, no more than one terminal per Library Building.
    2. Printing. Google shall design the Public Access Service to enable users at a not-for-profit Higher Education Institution to print pages from Display Books for a per-page fee, and to enable users at a Public Library to print pages from Display Books for a per-page fee to the extent that such Public Library offers per-page printing services for a fee for other products and services. The Registry shall set a reasonable fee for such printing. Google shall collect all such printing fees and shall pay them to the Registry in accordance with the Standard Revenue Split for Purchases.
    3. Additional Public Access Service. The Registry and Google may agree that Google may make available the Public Access Service to one or more Public Libraries or not-for-profit Higher Education Institutions either for free or for an annual fee, in addition to the Public Access Service provided under Section 4.8(a)(i) (Free Public Access Service).
  2. Commercial Public Access Service. The Registry and Google may agree to make a commercial public access service available to copy shops and other entities for an annual fee per concurrent user and a fee per printed page.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications/ to http://classifications.carnegiefoundation.org/ on November 13th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/agreement-contents.html to http://web.archive.org/web/20081219194925/http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/agreement-contents.html on August 22nd, 2013.

Footnotes

  1. ‘Public Library’ means a library that (a) is accessible by the public, (b) is, or is part of, a not-for-profit or government-funded institution other than a not-for-profit or government-funded institution that is classified under the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, and (c) allows patrons to take books and other materials off the premises but may also have non-circulating reference collections or provide other library services; however, ‘Public Library’ does not include any library primarily funded or managed by the federal government or an agency thereof. (Settlement; 1.119; p. 15) []
  2. ‘Higher Education Institution’ means an Institution of Higher Education, as defined by the Carnegie Classifications of Institutions of Higher Education from time to time or, if and when the Carnegie Foundation for the Classification of Teaching is no longer classifying colleges and universities in the United States, as such term or its successor term is defined by any successor classification system used to classify colleges and universities in the United States. (Settlement; 1.66; p. 9) []
(This post was updated on 21-Aug-2013.)