Ahoy, Congress! Google Books Objector Pam Samuelson’s Policy Agenda

Cross-posted from http://freelancerights.blogspot.com.

Pamela Samuelson and I have two things in common. And no, neither one is a MacArthur fellowship or broad expertise in the interplay of copyright and public policy — those are all Samuelson’s.

But Pam was the highest-profile objector to the Google Books settlement, which Judge Denny Chin torpedoed this week, and I lead a slate of objectors to the “Freelance” journalists’ electronic database settlement, still awaiting a ruling at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. We also have a passing acquaintance in the small hamlet of Berkeley, California. So when the Google news hit the other day, I sent Pam a note of congratulations.

Another thing we most assuredly do not share is access to The New York Times. The Newspaper of Record has twisted itself into journalism-not knots avoiding explanation of who is the “Muchnick” of last year’s United States Supreme Court case, Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick. But Samuelson, quite appropriately, was sounded out by The Times on the Humpty Dumpty fallout of Google Books. See “Google’s Next Stop May Be in Congress,” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/business/media/24google.html?src=busln.

“The next thing to do is think about going to Congress and getting legislation that would make particularly orphan works available to the public,” Samuelson told The Times.

Yesterday I asked Pam whether the time was ripe to push Congress for a solution to more than the narrow “orphan works” problem. I pointed out that I and other objectors in the Freelance case believe that the ultimate solution is Congressionally-codified “compulsory licenses” and royalty systems, for articles as well as books (the distinctions between such categories are increasingly irrelevant in the new information culture).

“I am working on legislative alternatives to the GBS and an extended collective licensing regime is an interesting idea,” Samuelson replied (and gave me permission to post).

Irv Muchnick

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