Roger L. Simon

You never write, you never call, you never email!

That sounds like a new version of an old Jewish Mother Joke, but it’s actually how I (as an author) feel about Google’s new project Google Print. The Authors Guild is on my side:

The Authors Guild and three other writers filed a class action suit on Tuesday against Google Inc. over the Google Print program. The lawsuit charges Google with massive copyright infringement.

Google Print is a beta, or test, project that allows Internet users to search for content in books. Google is in the process of scanning books from several libraries into the searchable database.

The Authors Guild, a society of published writers representing over 8,000 U.S. authors, charges that Google has not sought the approval of authors to include their works in the program.

I don’t know whether they plan on scanning any of my books, but they certainly haven’t contacted me – nor have they, to my knowledge, contacted any other writers. Of course, according to IT World,

Google does allow copyright holders to exclude their books from the program. However, traditionally, content users must have affirmative authorization from a copyright owner to use the copyrighted material, said Terence Ross, a partner and copyright law specialist at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a Washington, D.C., law office. “Merely saying that if we don’t hear from you we assume it’s okay has never been accepted by any court and I doubt it would ever be accepted,” he said.

Most of us wouldn’t even know how to contact them.

UPDATE: According to Forbes, The individual plaintiffs are Herbert Mitgang, a former New York Times editorial writer and the author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including The Fiery Trial: A Life of Lincoln; Betty Miles, the award-winning author of many works for children and young adults, and Daniel Hoffman, the author and editor of many volumes of poetry, translation, and literary criticism, who was also the 1973-74 Poet Laureate of the U.S.

I will be following this case carefully, not because it will substantially affect my royalties (I doubt that) but for its implications. Yahoo!, Microsoft and Google act these days almost as transnational online super states with no one to restrict them. If I were a sci-fi writer, I would see this as a harbinger of a new world order controled by Internet mega-companies. Its almost a cliché and it may already be here.