A new twist in the three-way battle between authors, publishers and Google

Google's plan to digitize millions of old books will hit a snag

Google’s desire to digitalize—and thereby monetize—millions of old books will face a new snag in 2013, say some commentators, because of a little noticed “widows and orphans clause” in the U.S. Copyright Act of 1978. No sooner than 35 years after granting rights to an author’s intellectual property, and no later than 40 years after, authors or their immediate heirs can recover from publishers or certain derivative licensees (like movie companies) the copyrights to works published. Not long ago most of the works would have been worth little or nothing, but now, thanks to Google, their value is suddenly increasing.

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