The Japan P.E.N. Club's statement concerning the settlement agreement for the Google Book Search lawsuit
As an organization of writers, the Japan P.E.N. Club is continuing to evaluate the specifics of the settlement agreement for the Google Book Search lawsuit, which was brought against Google in the United States and covered the scanning of books and their display via the Internet. At this time, however, we would like to clarify our view of the settlement from the three perspectives below and also offer some cautionary thoughts on the handling of copyrights in our digital age.
First, there are copyright-related problems. Despite the fact that the series of actions involved in Google's digitization of books represent a clear violation of the rights of reproduction as defined in Japanese copyrights, the settlement permits the digitization actions of Google. Furthermore, we have a major problem with the settlement's acceptance of the internal U.S. rule of "fair use" as a de facto "world standard."
Second, there are procedural problems. We strongly fear that adoption of the "opt-out" method--in which people's rights are protected only if they specifically request it--will serve to weaken the position of rights holders, and we believe it may conflict with the Berne Convention, the international rule covering copyright law. The fact that rule changes with such major inherent problems are being made in a one-sided manner and without adequate information, disclosure would seem to indicate that insufficient weight has been given to the writer's position. In addition, it seems to us that entrusting the identification of out-of-print books for which net viewing is permitted entirely to Google or some other organization in the United States may result in insufficient weight being given to the opinions of writers (and publishers) in Japan.
Third, there are problems with the monopolization of information distribution. There is a danger that permitting the private corporation Google to take the lead in this area will result in a de facto monopoly in the field, thus adversely affecting the diversity of information distribution. The creation of such a database by a single private corporation makes the information dependent upon the policies or existence of that corporation, and this could undermine the foundations of publishing culture itself. In addition, there are also dangers inherent in what would be, in effect, monopolistic centralized management of copyright-holder information (personal information included) in the "Registry" set up with Google support for the purpose of the processing of copyright matters.
Containing as it does major problems such as those above, this settlement agreement could cast a large shadow on freedom of expression and the development of publishing culture. Therefore, the Japan P.E.N. Club hereby states that we find the settlement agreement very difficult to accept.
April 24, 2009
Takashi Atoda, President
The Japan P.E.N. Club
The Japanese Centre of International P.E.N.