Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Court rejects Google Books settlement

Significant setback in Google's path to world domination. CNET News reports that

Adding another chapter to a long, drawn-out legal saga, a New York federal district court has rejected the controversial settlement in a class-action suit brought against Google Books by the Authors Guild, a publishing industry trade group.

"While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far," a court document explains. "It would permit this class action--which was brought against defendant Google Inc. to challenge its scanning of books and display of 'snippets' for on-line searching--to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA (Amended Settle Agreement) would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case."

The settlement would grant Google the right to display excerpts of out-of-print books, even if they are not in the public domain or authorized by publishers to appear in Google Books. When the settlement was initially announced in mid-2009, opposition flooded in from lawyers on behalf of Microsoft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a coalition called the Open Book Alliance who decried it as anticompetitive.

"Google and the plaintiff publishers secretly negotiated for 29 months to produce a horizontal price fixing combination, effected and reinforced by a digital book distribution monopoly," a lawyer for the Open Book Alliance said at the time. "Their guile has cleared much of the field in digital book distribution, shielding Google from meaningful competition."

Well-known economics journal goes open access

Interesting post by Justin Wolfers:

Here’s a test of basic economic literacy: What is the socially optimal price of online access to economics journal articles?

If my students learn only one thing, it’s this: Price equals marginal cost. And the marginal cost of accessing a journal article is pretty much zero. The research has been written, the type has been set, and the salaries have already been paid — usually thanks to a university, think tank, or government grant. So the socially optimal price is: free. Every time we charge a price higher than this, we risk pricing out someone who might benefit from the insights of an academic scribbler.

The Brookings Papers on Economic Activity – the journal that David Romer and I edit — has decided to take this piece of economic wisdom seriously. The Brookings Papers are now entirely open access. Yep, we’re charging zero; nada; nothing; zip.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Internet-Informed Patient: March 28

We're holding a one-day symposium on March 28 on the implications of the Internet-informed patient for health care. The previous day (March 27) we will be hosting a Hack Day for developers and other professionals interested in harnessing IT to improve our use of health data -- both in terms of patient-centred Apps and making creative use of open health data to inform patients and improve decision-making.

Both events will be held in the Moller Centre at Churchill College, Cambridge.

The symposium will not take the usual form of a panel of expert speakers with a (largely passive) audience, but is designed as a day-long series of structured conversations in small groups primed by a few pithy, thought-provoking statements on a number of burning issues. The conversations will be live-blogged and some contributions will be video-recorded, so that a record of the conversations can be made available afterwards.

We still have some places available for both the Symposium and the Hack Day. If you're interested -- or know someone who might be -- please get in touch.

For the Symposium the contact is Isla Kuhn -- ilk21 (at) cam.ac.uk
For the Hack Day the contact is John Naughton -- jjn1 (at) cam.ac.uk

You can also get in touch via the website -- http://www.iip-symposium.info/