Google has been trying for several years now to appropriate centuries of intellectual effort by writers by scanning books and yet not paying royalties. Since it is very difficult for authors, especially those who are no longer alive, to organize to defend their interests, the company has been able to strike deals with intermediary groups (who appointed them?) such as the so-called “Authors Guild” to pay nominal royalties where authors could be located.
But the patent inequities of the arrangement convinced a US district court judge to scuttle the deal. A US Justice Department investigation of the Google maneuver is also underway.
One tactic used by Google that caught the judge’s eye: the private company requires authors to “opt out” of their attempt to take author’s works and make them available on their computer system rather than “opt in” – this greatly disadvantages groups like widely dispersed and poorly organized authors. Berkeley Law’s IP law professor Pam Samuelson wrote about the issue in greater detail here.