Today, I went and interviewed Professor Pamela Samuelson at UC Berkeley's Law School for a story on Google's effort to digitize all the world's books. She reminded me that scholarship remains a lofty pursuit. Samuelson is part of a growing group of people who object to a pending settlement between Google and the Author's Guild over how to divide the income Google makes from digitized books.
I confess to being completely surprised to hear Samuelson say that she doesn't want the money and neither do a whole group of other scholars.
"A lot of academic authors never really wrote those books for the money in the first place," says Samuelson. She says what many scholars want is for their ideas to reach a large number of people.
If the current settlement is approved, Samuelson says people will have to pay for access to digitized versions of work by scholars who feel it's more important for people to see their work and share their ideas than it is for them to make a few extra pennies. The problem with the settlement says Samuelson is that the Author's Guild doesn't genuinely represent all authors as a class.
For those who haven't been following this case, here's a little background. Google began scanning the world's books into its database. The Author's Guild sued them saying that Google needed permission from its authors. The case didn't go to trial and the two sides reached a $125 million settlement to make sure that authors got paid when people purchased or accessed their books online. The agreement must still get the seal of approval from a federal judge who could ask the parties to modify it after hearing objections from people like Samuelson.
So tomorrow I'm off to do an interview with someone from the National Writer's Union. His problem? They aren't paying authors enough money. These writers are a fickle group aren't they?