Fahrenheit 451 & The Internet (GOOG, MHP, PSO, JW-A, CBS)

October 28, 2008 by Douglas A. McIntyre

Stack_of_books_picWe are seeing a historic event, and one which may outline the future of books.  Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has reached a settlement over its dispute with The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers.  This will expand online access to millions of copyrighted books and other written materials in the U.S. from the collections of a number of major U.S. libraries participating in Google Book Search.

U.S. colleges, universities and other organizations will be able toaccess subscriptions for online access to collections from some of theworld’s most renowned libraries. Millions of out-of-print books will now be accessible atdesignated computers in U.S. public and university libraries.

What is interesting here is that Google is compensating authors andpublishers via a newly created independentand non-profit book rights registry.  Google will make paymentstotaling $125 million to establish the registry and resolve existingclaims from authors and publishers.

The members of the Association of American Publishers whichhad been involved in suing Google over this in 2005 before were asfollows:

  • The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. (NYSE: MHP);
  • Pearson (NYSE: PSO) units Pearson Education, Inc. and Penguin Group; 
  • John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (NYSE: JW-a);
  • and CBS Corporation (NYSE: CBS.A and CBS) unit Simon & Schuster.

The settlement is subject to court approval, but this will resolve thatlegal battle.  Keep in mind that this is not an effort to publish newreleases for free on the internet, but it means that the public is going to be able to have much deeper access to books which are in print and out of print at no cost. 

This should also create an environmentwhere traders wished that the local governments could bandtogether and spin-off the public libraries into a large publicly tradedstock company.  That way they could short sell it.

Jon C. Ogg
October 28, 2008