“Americans shoot first, ask questions later,” said the moderator of one panel discussion on the Google settlement held at this week’s Frankfurt Book Fair, reflecting widespread sentiment among non-US-based publishers and agents. “You Americans are all asleep,” noted one agent to me. “Why are you allowing this takeover of the publishing industry by a .com technology company?” Despite its industry-changing goal of creating the first and comprehensive global online library/bookstore out of the 10 million books it has scanned so far, Google had no on-the-floor presence at Frankfurt, the largest book fair in the world and the meeting point for the industry every October. (As of this date, Google has also not taken space at the London Book Fair for April 2010; in earlier years, it had taken out large stand space.) As one publisher put it, “Google is the shark swimming above our heads this year.” The Google settlement, supported by both Google and the AAP (Association of American Publishers), is currently being adjudicated in the USA; the US Department of Justice urges the court to reject the settlement in its current form. Many anticipate that this suit may result in a major challenge to existing copyright and moral rights legislation, ultimately redefining the digital realities of intellectual property.
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