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FSF files objection to Google Book Search settlement

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Legal

Today the Free Software Foundation (FSF) filed an objection in court to the proposed Google Book Search settlement (The Authors Guild, Inc., et al. v. Google Inc.). The objection urges the court to reject the proposed settlement unless it incorporates terms that better address the needs of authors using free licenses like the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), and does not provide special competitive advantages to Google.

The GFDL is a copyright license that authors use for their works when they believe others should have the freedom to share and improve those works. It was designed primarily for use with technical documentation, but has been used for many different kinds of written works -- from print biographies to Wikipedia articles. Whereas copyright is normally used to prohibit others from distributing works, the GFDL encourages this, with the requirement that any such redistribution must also be under its pro-sharing terms.

But under the proposed settlement, works released under the GFDL and similar licenses are lumped in with works under full restrictive copyright. Google would therefore be given permission to display and distribute these works without abiding by the requirement to pass the freedoms guaranteed under the GFDL on to Google Books readers.

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