No, Google isn’t getting that big: the title of this post refers to the recent Google Books settlement. According to the settlement, Google is going to have exclusive rights to resell so-called orphan books–books that are out-of-print but still under copyright. Since no publishers companies can technically claim these books, Google is going to offer them for download for a fee. So take one of my favorite out-of-print books still under copyright–A Street in Bronzeville by Gwendolyn Brooks. One of Brooks’ earliest collections, the book was originally published in 1945 by Harper Publishing. It looks like a second edition of the collection was also published in 1945, perhaps to correct errors or with additional poems.
In any case, no other editions were ever published, and the work remains under copyright until 95 years after its original publication, or 2035. That’s a bit of a wait. Under the terms of the settlement, Google would be able to make this orphan text available for download. Great, right? Here’s the kicker: Google alone will own the rights to the orphans. If I want the Brooks’ collection (and I don’t have the $300 or so for a first edition), I have to pay whatever Google decides is appropriate. That sounds a bit like a monopoly in the making. All the more reason to repeat my recommendation for would-be law students: go into copyright and/or intellectual property. You’ll make a killing.
And lastly, a poem from Bronzeville that I remember fondly:
The Old Marrieds
But in the crowding darkness not a word did they say.
Though the pretty-coated birds had piped so lightly all the day.
And he had seen the lovers in the little side streets.
And she had heard the morning stories clogged with sweets.
It was quite a time for loving. It was midnight. It was May.
But in the crowding darknesss not a word did they say.