Thousands of authors reject Google service

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Nearly 7,000 authors have asked to be excluded from the sweeping digital books agreement that Google has reached with the publishing industry, among them well-known names such as Thomas Pynchon, Zadie Smith and Phillip Pullman.

The requests are the latest sign of the deep unhappiness stirred up in the world by the landmark agreement, according to opponents of the plan.

However, they and other observers also said the objections are likely to have little impact on Google’s ambition to create the most comprehensive online repository of printed works.

The deal still requires approval by a US judge, who held a hearing on the case last week in the last step before issuing his ruling.

The agreement, which is designed to settle a class action lawsuit brought against Google by publishers and authors, would give the company the right to scan and index past works that are still in copyright, as long as their authors do not opt out. Google would also sell digital copies and split the proceeds with the copyright holders.

Most of the authors who opted out were still likely to continue to have their works indexed by Google, said James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at New York University law school.

He described the number of opt-outs as largely symbolic and a sign of the unease many authors have expressed about the plan.

Authors were given until January 28 to opt out of the class action settlement – a largely legal consideration that does not directly affect their status in Google’s book search service itself. They will need to make a separate request to be excluded from the service and those who have not opted out by the deadline will still be able to ask later on for their works to be left out of Google’s books search.

Both supporters and opponents of the plan said the author opt-outs were unlikely to make much of a dent in Google’s book service. The number of authors is relatively small compared with the large numbers of works Google has digitised, according to a spokesperson for the Open Books Alliance, a consortium of Google’s opponents.

Google has already narrowed the scope of the settlement to works published in the US, UK, Australia and Canada and estimates that some 10m volumes are potentially covered by the settlement.

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