A group of about 175 Canadian writers registered their objections to the Google Book Search settlement last week just before the Jan. 28 deadline for submissions to a New York court.

David Fewer, an Ottawa law professor and director of the Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic who is representing the authors, says that Canadian authors should have been exempted from the settlement as authors from many other countries were when the settlement was revised to only apply to the U.S., Canada and Australia.

“The onus shouldn’t be on the writer to opt out. The onus should be on the writer to opt in, “ Fewer says. “Because, at the end of the day, the writer should have the right to control how their copyrights are exploited, how they are commercialized, who benefits from their copyrights and how.”

Although many writers have opted out of the settlement individually, the ad hoc group, Canadian Writers Against Google Settlement, is the first group of Canadian writers to formally object to the settlement. Fewer says that organizations that might ordinarily speak on behalf of Canadian writers, such as the Writers’ Union of Canada have not spoken up against the settlement because their members are divided on the issue of the Google settlement. The group objecting includes prominent authors such as Nino Ricci, Charlotte Gray, Patrick Lane and Wayson Choy.

Explaining the authors’ objections, Fewer said the settlement turns “copyright upside down and that’s a big problem for us because that right to control, that exclusive right belongs to us.”

Secondly, he said, the settlement violates copyrights guaranteed to authors in international treaties such as the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA); the Berne Convention, a multilateral treaty that covers copyright, and the World Trade Organization’s agreement on Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS). “There are international implications here. There’s a reason why Canadians and Great Britons and Australians are affected by this litigation,” Fewer said. “You are doing something nasty to copyright and you are doing so in violation of a series of agreements, a series of promises that you made Canada, and that’s a problem,” he added later.

Fewer did say, however, that the Google settlement does offer some real benefits in spite of these sorts of issues. There’s a tremendous benefit to be offered to the world with this settlement. “It would be a shame if the solution was to exclude Canada entirely from the benefits of the transaction. What I’d rather see is the benefits offered and then leave it to the copyright owner to choose whether or not they are going to opt in to the settlement.”