"... It is as immediate as next Tuesday week. May 5th is the deadline – the arbitrary, gun-to-the-head deadline – for writers around the world to opt in or out of the settlement reached in the New York courts between Google, the Authors Guild of America, and the Association of American Publishers.
This is a private settlement, negotiated in secret in one country, and it has yet to be debated or approved in open court. Yet, because both copyright law and the internet function globally, it affects almost every book published anywhere. Whether or not an Irish writer, for example, has been physically published in the US, he or she has a “US copyright interest” and is therefore part of the legal “class” covered by the settlement.
Thus, over the next few days, every author has to do one of two things. (Doing nothing is not an option – failure to act means that you are automatically assumed to be bound by the deal.) You can actively opt out (at www.googlebooksettlement.com), which means that you retain control over your own copyright and can sue Google if those rights are breached. Or you can opt in, which means that in return for a pathetic payment (most of the $125 million that Google is coughing up will go the lawyers – authors will get a measly $60 per book), Google can display large chunks of your work for free and sell downloads of the whole thing.
There’s a strong element of coercion here. No one outside the US has even been consulted. The assumption that you’ve opted in unless you’ve opted out is strikingly authoritarian."
full article - Irish Times
FAQs at Google
This lawsuit involves the Google Library Project. In 2004, Google announced that it had entered into agreements with several libraries to digitize books, including books protected by U.S. copyright law, in those libraries’ collections. Several authors and publishers brought this lawsuit against Google, claiming that its digitization without permission infringed their copyrights. In response to the authors’ and publishers’ claims of copyright infringement, Google argued that its digitization of the books and display of snippets, or a few lines, of the books is permitted under the U.S. copyright law’s doctrine of "fair use." Instead of resolving the legal dispute over whether Google’s digitization and display of the books is permissible under U.S. law as a "fair use," the parties negotiated a settlement.
... You should assume that you own a U.S. copyright interest in your Book, unless you are certain that your Book was published in, and that you reside and are located in, one of the few countries that have not had or do not now have copyright relations with the United States.
..... If you do nothing, you will be bound by the Settlement. If you do not claim your Books, you will not receive any Cash Payment or be able to participate in future revenue from Google’s use of your Books. By staying in the Settlement, you will, however, release all copyright infringement claims you might have against Google for digitizing your Books without your permission