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Google turns up nose at ebook monopoly claims

How much is an orphan worth?

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The Positive/Negative Feedback Loop

For Dan Clancy, Google's settlement doesn't hamper competition. It feeds competition, encouraging authors and publishers to step forward and claim their work - creating a copyright database that anyone else can use.

"The idea is to build a system that helps define who the rights holders are to make it easier for everybody. The fact that access to these books is being made available, that money is being held, that there's an organization where you can find the rights holders, it incentivizes people to come forward...It creates this positive feedback loop of getting more and more works claimed. So it means that other people who have all sorts of ideas can take advantage."

But this also means that a single, private concern will control prices on all claimed works. It's not an open market. "There is very little incentive for the BRR to engender competition for vending alternative access to the books because it would drive prices downwards, thus diminishing returns to registered rights holders," says Peter Brantley.

And because of this, rights holders may be less likely to join. "Many writers and authors are so incensed, they are pulling their books out - more of a negative feedback loop if you ask me," Brantley continues. "The rights registry should be a public asset, not a private good. The Book Rights Registry should either be provided through the Copyright Office or regulated to engender public access. We don't want a private organization stipulating when we will have access to public data."

What's more, the Registry won't include the orphans. Again, those rights will rest with Google and Google alone. Even if you can negotiate a decent price with the Registry, you won't have access to the same works as Mountain View. Which brings us full circle, back to the voices howling that Google is weeks away from securing a digital monopoly around orphan works.

Surely, they're worth listening to. ®

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