Michael Healy may have the biggest job to result from Google's library scanning project and the ensuing lawsuit other than the scanning of the books themselves. He is the executive director designate of the Book Rights Registry, the nonprofit organization created by the Google Books Search settlement to keep track of the rights to the books Google has scanned, as well as making payments due to rights holders. This is a multipronged task, first to set up a system to distribute money, once the agreement is approved, to the class members—authors and rights holders whose books Google has already scanned without permission and who have not opted out of the agreement. Healy will also have to put into place a system that will allow rights holders to come forward in the future, designate whether and how they want their books included in the BRR database, and claim any money owed to them; eventually, it will seek out rights holders for orphan works.

Although he's got his work cut out for him, Healy's background probably makes him the best man for the job. A 25-year veteran of the book business, mostly in Europe, Healy has played some important roles in the digital space. He was a pioneer in the CD-ROM industry in the U.K.; spent seven years at Nielsen Book Data, the bibliographic data provider, where he worked on supply chain and standards issues; then moved to the U.S. in 2006 as executive director of the Book Industry Study Group. After Google reached a preliminary settlement with the AAP and Authors Guild, “I got a call from the plaintiffs asking me if I'd be interested in taking up the BRR position,” Healy says about how he ended up in his latest role, which he started in late October.

“I'm proud to have been one of those pioneers of digital publishing back in the '90s. It doesn't feel quite as new to me as it might to some others,” says Healy. It's a good thing, because he's got to guide authors and publishers into some pretty murky territory. Once the revised settlement gets final approval, as well as an effective implementation date, the BRR will need to leap into action. “My job now,” says Healy, “is to prepare the foundation—look at the system, the processes, and the procedures, the framework that the registry is going to require to function, and to do as much of the work ahead of time so we can begin operations as soon as we get the judge's approval.” That includes working to design the online front end through which rights holders will interact with the BRR to be “very user friendly.”

Healy explains the registry's job with confident clarity: “The functions of the registry are very clearly laid out in the settlement agreement. We have an obligation to identify rights holders. We have a clear mission to make the registry as straightforward and transparent as possible so they can claim their books, then register their preferences on how those books are displayed and priced. And Google and other licensees are obliged by the settlement to act on those preferences. There's an immediate imperative that rights holders can claim their cash payments and claim their works to enable those class payments.”

Also to be finalized is how the organization itself will be run. Healy will assure that everything follows the settlement to the letter, which stipulates that there will be equal representation for all the groups in the settlement class. “We've made it clear that there will be equal representation of authors and publishers on the board of directors. Each of the countries affected by the settlement—Canada, the U.S., Australia, and the U.K.—will have one author and one publisher on the board. But all of that can't be put in place until we get approval [of the settlement],” he stresses.

It's not clear to Healy exactly how many employees the BRR will need and what will be done in-house or outsourced, but he's working vigorously to figure out the details in advance of the settlement's final approval. “We're preparing our requirements right now, and then I think a picture will emerge of what we'll need. I'm committed to keeping it as lean as it can be. This is not our money to spend. It belongs to rights holders, and we should use it responsibly.”