Google co-founder Sergey Brin lashed out at critics of Google's Book Search settlement with authors and publishers, arguing that no other company or organization has stepped up to offer to scan the millions of out-of-print books and make them available to users.
Google Book Search is the search engine giant's proposed settlement with the Author's Guild and Association of American Publishers to scan millions of books online and offer them to people for fees, with authors and publishers receiving the bulk of licensing revenues. The deal, announced one year ago this month, would settle a class-action lawsuit going back to 2005, but has been bogged down in a New York district court.
Nearly 400 parties have filed positions on the matter, with the majority of them opposing the deal for various reasons. The Department of Justice expressed concerns about the agreement's treatment of book licensing rights and myriad other issues. Privacy advocates, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, fear Google's Book Search system will not adequately protect data on users' reading habits.
Rivals such as Amazon, Yahoo and Microsoft oppose the deal because they fear it will give Google too much control over orphan works, those books whose authors are unknown or cannot be found.
Brin, who is also Google's president of technology, addressed all of these concerns in an op-ed published in the New York Times Oct. 8. It was a rare move for Brin, who like co-founder Larry Page prefers to steer clear from public speaking and let Google CEO Eric Schmidt serve as the company's top spokesman.
Brin also sarcastically disputed the notion that the deal stunted competition or limited consumer choice with respect to out-of-print books. He wrote:
""In reality, nothing in this agreement precludes any other company or organization from pursuing their own similar effort. The agreement limits consumer choice in out-of-print books about as much as it limits consumer choice in unicorns. Today, if you want to access a typical out-of-print book, you have only one choice-fly to one of a handful of leading libraries in the country and hope to find it in the stacks.""