One of the requirements of class-action lawsuits is notification of potential class members. Most of the members of a class never know that a lawsuit has taken place on their behalf (e.g., bank X credit card holders). So the courts require attorneys to tell class members of the suit and settlement terms and allow them to opt out of the settlement if they desire. If they fail to opt out typically they’re bound by the terms and cannot sue independently.
Google is now in this position with the settlement of the Google Book Search Copyright Class Action lawsuit against its book scanning project. As part of the settlement, Google has set up a $125 million fund to settle claims, which is discussed on this dedicated website constructed to report the settlement terms and related rules.
To satisfy the notification requirements, in addition to the settlement website, Google has used a variety of methods to communicate with potential claimants. According to an article in the NY Times, it has used direct mail but it also plans to spend millions ($7 -$8 million) on newspaper and print magazine advertising to alert copyright holders about the settlement. The scope of all this is global — hence the price tag.
I would be remiss if I were not to point out the partial irony here: Google using traditional advertising to promote an online initiative. But the Internet, especially outside the West, still arguably doesn’t have the same reach as traditional media, which are thus critical to communicate with copyright holders, authors and publishers. (As an aside, if newspapers in certain US cities disappear it will be difficult to find a judicially acceptable alternative notification mechanism — perhaps a combination of TV, Internet and direct mail.)
The way the Book Settlement ad spend is apparently being distributed, according to the Times’ article, is 30 percent US, 30 percent “industrialized countries” and 40 percent “rest of world.” This apparently reflects the regional contribution of books to the global library.