Monday, March 28, 2011

How to resolve copyright questions for digitizing out-of-print books

The Washington Post has an important editorial Monday March 28, “Online books and copyright law”, link here.

The Post argues that a non-profit body related to authors and literature, not a for profit-company (as with the Google Books Project), should represent the rights of authors (or their estates) for out-of-print books in determining the opt-in or opt-out issues.  There are examples around one can look at: the story of J.D. Salinger, or the many examples of “unfinished” works of composers in classical music literature which are later discovered.

There’s another practical issue.  Sometimes an out-of-print book has content that some parties associated with the author may take issue with being available online to search engines, whereas the author may have replaced the out-of-print version with a newer one to remove material previously objected to or perhaps just incorrect.  (My own “Do Ask Do Tell” has some issues – including one major historical inaccuracy – in its 1997 printing that were corrected for the 2000 iUniverse version.) 

The New York Times has a similar editorial March 30 here

Picture: remember the days of "slide rule accuracy"?


Bill Boushka said...

Alexander Woo made this comment:

Thought you might be interested in a letter to the editor published today in the Washington Post ( in reaction to an editorial the Post ran on the Google Books Settlement. In the editorial, the Post expressed a need for a collective licensing organization that could disburse royalty payments to rights holders. The letter to the editor reminds the Post that such an organization already exists – The Copyright Clearance Center (

Bill Boushka said...

Alexandra Woo (that's the name in the email) sent me this additional comment today:

Hi Bill,

Just wanted to follow up and inform you that the transcript and archive of the webinar “Unraveling the Rejection” by Copyright Clearance Center is now available. Copyright expert Lois Wasoff and Chris Kenneally examine the decision by Judge Denny Chin to reject the Google Books Settlement.


Hi Bill,

Wanted to give you the heads up that this coming Wednesday, March 30th at 12PM ET, copyright expert Lois Wasoff will join Chris Kenneally for a special webinar “Unraveling the Rejection” by Copyright Clearance Center examining the decision by Judge Denny Chin to reject the Google Books Settlement. Lois and Chris will discuss what the decision means for those affected by the proposed settlement, and what is likely to happen next.

More information is available here: and you can register for the live webinar here:

Hopefully you will find of interest to share with your readers as well. Thanks for taking a look!