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Free Software Foundation files objection to Google Book Search settlemen

From: Brett Smith
Subject: Free Software Foundation files objection to Google Book Search settlement
Date: Tue, 08 Sep 2009 15:20:35 -0400

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Tuesday, September 8, 2009 -- Today the
Free Software Foundation (FSF) filed an objection in court to the
proposed Google Book Search settlement (The Authors Guild, Inc., et
al. v. Google Inc.). The objection urges the court to reject the
proposed settlement unless it incorporates terms that better address
the needs of authors using free licenses like the GNU Free
Documentation License (GFDL), and does not provide special competitive
advantages to Google.

The GFDL is a copyright license that authors use for their works when
they believe others should have the freedom to share and improve those
works. It was designed primarily for use with technical documentation,
but has been used for many different kinds of written works -- from
print biographies to Wikipedia articles. Whereas copyright is normally
used to prohibit others from distributing works, the GFDL encourages
this, with the requirement that any such redistribution must also be
under its pro-sharing terms.

But under the proposed settlement, works released under the GFDL and
similar licenses are lumped in with works under full restrictive
copyright. Google would therefore be given permission to display and
distribute these works without abiding by the requirement to pass the
freedoms guaranteed under the GFDL on to Google Books readers.

"The Google Book Search settlement assumes that authors are only
interested in being paid for publication rights of their works,"
explained Brett Smith, license compliance engineer at the FSF.
"However, authors using free licenses, like the GFDL and the Creative
Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, have made it clear that they
want to ensure that everyone can share and change their work. These
licenses already give Google permission to display and publish the
works. This settlement offers the company an escape clause to take
works that have been permanently dedicated to a commons out of that
commons, undermining both the purpose of these licenses and the wishes
of the authors who use them."

The objection states, "The settlement attempts to balance the various
commercial interests in the publication and distribution of books but
in doing so it ignores those concerned more with freedom than with the
ability to earn profits through Google's commercial ventures. When
freely licensed books are distributed without regard for their terms,
authors, publishers and readers are all harmed and the community's
unifying values are undermined. This harm cannot be adequately
quantified or compensated or otherwise addressed in a royalty

The full text of the objection, prepared by the Software Freedom Law
Center on the FSF's behalf, is available online at
<>.  The
full text of the GFDL is at

### About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to
promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and
redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and
use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating
system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free
software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and
political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites,
located at and, are an important source of information
about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at
<>. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

### About Free Software and Open Source

The free software movement's goal is freedom for computer users. Some,
especially corporations, advocate a different viewpoint, known as
"open source," which cites only practical goals such as making
software powerful and reliable, focuses on development models, and
avoids discussion of ethics and freedom. These two viewpoints are
different at the deepest level. For more explanation, see

### Media Contacts

Brett Smith  
License Compliance Engineer  
Free Software Foundation  
+1 (617) 542 5942 x18  


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