Sony Reaches Deal to Share in Google’s E-Book Library

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

In case you were wondering what the future holds for those who don’t oppose the Google Books class action settlement, there is a helpful story in the New York Times announcing a deal that Google has already made with Sony to cover books in the public domain.

With the usual laser beam of critical focus that the mass media brings to its business coverage of Google, the NYT overlooked a couple questions it might have asked in the piece (aptly entitled “Sony Reaches Deal to Share in Google’s E-Book Library“. Because it is Google’s library, make no mistake.)

First, do you really think that Google and Sony would make a deal that only covered public domain material when the deadline on the fairness hearing on the Google Books settlement is coming up on May 4 with the fairness hearing on June 11?

Doesn’t it seem more likely that Google and Sony would make a deal that would cover public domain materials now, and then everything else once the settlement is in place? Do the two companies intend to start all over again with a completely different negotiation for the in-copyright works? Maybe. But we don’t seem to know that from the newspaper of record.

So in case you weren’t planning on licensing your lyrics or sheet music to Sony for their reader, you might be interested in that fact, and it might have been nice for the NYT to have brought that up in their reportage.

Also, how does this license of public domain books actually work? Is Sony paying for the digitization of the works? Why couldn’t Sony have digitized the work themselves?

It’s only 500,000 works. That’s a significant number of works but hardly daunting for a company like Sony. Was there some reason why Sony couldn’t get the works from a library and do the digitizing themselves? What could possibly have been blocking a company the size of Sony from doing the same thing that Google did?

Will Sony keep paying Google for using the digitized works or is it a one-time payment? Who gets the money? Does it go to the “Google Books Registry” or does Google keep it? Does Google get a fee for each player, or what?

According to the NYT, the companies didn’t release the financial terms of the deal.

And when it comes to Google, that’s where it stops. That’s where the newspaper of record stops its investigation into what is clearly the most significant antitrust event to hit the creative community.

This so typically Orwellian for the Leviathan of Mountain View. Make it sound like you’re promoting competition with Amazon when you’re busily locking up the rights to world literature, sheet music, lyrics, the works.

As Google’s Sergey Brin told the Wall Street Journal (who at least asked the right questions):

“WSJ: Is establishing a registry for rights holders a model that Google thinks it can replicate in other areas of digital media, like video?

Brin: Very much so. In fact, with video and our fingerprinting technology, we are essentially building the [opt-in] registry. We have a number of big media companies that send us their raw video files and we fingerprint that and we can attribute those videos to them.”

The longer Google can keep creators in the dark, the stronger they get.

Like the man said, “Ignorance is strength.”