ment, data mining, social computing,
robotics, and bioengineering.
I admit I find the second item
largely irrelevant. What is the optimal percentage in CS of men, women,
and racial/ethnic groups? Is it a problem to be overrepresented in certain
countries by men, whites, Indian, or
Chinese CS professionals? Why not
inspire a passion for the profession
among all people, and let whoever is
interested join the ranks? Anything
else, like somehow encouraging or targeting certain groups while downplay-ing others, is racial, ethnic, or gender
Ron Pyke, bellevue, WA
Who speaks for Books?
By objecting to the proposed Google
book-search settlement without offering alternatives, Pamela Samuelson in
“The Dead Souls of the Google Book
Search Settlement” (July 2009) seemed
to be allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good, addressing policy issues
beyond the immediate legal issues in
the lawsuit. Each of her concerns could,
however, be ameliorated without rejecting the basic framework.
Among the issues before the court
is whether the Authors Guild is an appropriate representative of the plaintiff
class. If the court decides the Authors
Guild is an inappropriate class representative, the details of the settlement
are irrelevant. However, this would also
mean that the litigation will be prolonged and the ultimate results uncertain. In the meantime, everyone, including many scholars, will be without the
benefit of Google Book Search. It may
thus be prudent to allow the Authors
Guild to represent a class, regardless
of its limited and perhaps specialized
membership, and focus on the merits
of the settlement.
Orphan works by definition have no
rights holders to speak for them. Presumably, some rights holders would like
to have their works made freely available, while others would require compensation for and/or limits to access,
and still others would refuse any access
at all. A judicious approach might be to
exclude orphan works from the settlement. Ideally, the U.S. Congress would
establish a policy toward orphan works
that would reflect policy choices beyond
the interests of the parties to a lawsuit.
That two de facto monopolies would
be created by a settlement is a concern
but can be addressed while still maintaining the basic settlement. First,
the Registry would be the only general
source of rights to digitize non-orphan,
non-public domain books published
before January 2009, but there is the
possibility that another rights group
could be organized in competition
with the Registry, as BMI was founded
to compete with ASCAP in music performing rights. Second, unless others
are likely to receive terms comparable
to Google’s under the settlement, they
could hesitate to seek a license from
the Registry and undertake a comparable project without a license. As a
result, Google may be the only licensee
with rights to scan the non-orphan,
non-public domain books. But even
if that happens, others could develop
business models analogous to those of
Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw.
Google will also have the authority
to develop pricing algorithms for the
books. For that to happen, the court
can clarify that any approval of the settlement would not preclude future antitrust review, and Google would then
be bound by the law, just like any other
As Samuelson wrote, the settlement
would achieve a substantial restructuring of the landscape of access to books.
While there may be understandable
concern about such far-reaching results from the settlement of a single
lawsuit, it alone is insufficient to require the parties to continue litigating.
By resolving this case with relatively
modest adjustments, we would have
the substantial benefit of greater access than ever to books.
Yee Wah chin, new York
Orphan-works legislation would be desirable
and, in my judgment, more likely if the
settlement is not approved than if it is.
The idea of excluding orphan works from
the settlement is interesting, but one that
would cause the settlement agreement to
fall apart, since getting a license to orphan
works is one of Google’s main objectives in
the class-action settlement. The Authors
Guild and AAP also care about this
because their authors and publishers will
benefit if Google pays BRR royalties for its
exploitations of the orphans that, under the
settlement agreement, are to be paid out
to registered publishers and authors, after
BRR’s costs are deducted.
I am familiar with the “perfect is the
enemy of the good” argument and think it
has some relevance here. But part of what
concerns me is what will happen in 10 years,
20 years, and beyond and that monopolies
tend to engage in exclusionary conduct and
excessive pricing. That is a reason to be very
careful about approval of this settlement.
Pamela samuelson, berkeley, CA
I was fortunate to have Professor
Maurice Wilkes (interviewed by David
P. Anderson, Sept. 2009) as my academic advisor 1953–1954 when I programmed for the EDSAC while earning
a post-graduate diploma in “
Numerical Analysis and Automatic Computing” that included writing a thesis on
programming for the EDSAC. To the
best of my knowledge, that was the
first year a post-graduate computer science degree was ever awarded.
I have since had the pleasure of
meeting Maurice many times, during both his association with Digital
Equipment Corporation in Maynard,
MA, in the 1980s and more recently in
Cambridge, U.K., where I visited him
around the time of his 95th birthday.
Despite his advanced age, he drove me
from his office to his home to have tea
with him and his wife Nina, and later
from his home to the station to catch a
train back to London.
I am 20 years younger than Maurice
but hope I will match his sprightliness
when I reach his age.
Peter Wegner, Providence, ri
The interview with Maurice Wilkes by
David P. Anderson (Sept. 2009) was of
great interest, in spite of the unkind
remarks regarding Alan Turing. If not
for a few greats of World War II like
Turing and Robert Watson-Watt [ra-dar pioneer], the interview would have
been carried out in German.
George t. Jacobi, milwaukee, Wi
Communications welcomes your opinion. to submit a
Letter to the editor, please limit your comments to 500
words or less and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.