National Federation of the Blind Supports Google Settlement in Court
NFB President Speaks at Fairness Hearing
NEW YORK CITY (February 18, 2010): The National Federation of the Blind, which has led the fight for the equality of blind Americans for nearly seventy years, expressed support for the proposed settlement between Google and authors and publishers today in a hearing before Judge Denny Chin in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York. Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, told the court that the proposed settlement should be approved because it will provide access to millions of books for blind Americans.
Dr. Maurer said in part: “Digital books are quickly becoming the norm. This should be good news for the blind. Digital information can easily be presented in auditory, large print, or refreshable Braille formats. However, despite the simplicity of building accessibility provisions into digital management products, many of the manufacturers of the technology have refused to consider doing so. On the other hand, Google will give us access to 10 million books. In the process of doing this, Google will help to make the point that access to information for all is achievable and desirable. . . .We believe that access to the storehouse of ideas, books, is essential for participation in a free society. The ability to think, to write, to invent, and to create opportunity expands in the presence of the writings of others. If our talents are to be used, we must be able to read.”
The terms of the settlement among Google, the Authors Guild, the American Association of Publishers, and five individual publishing companies expressly allow Google to provide the material it offers users “in a manner that accommodates users with print disabilities so that such users have a substantially similar user experience as users without print disabilities.” A user with a print disability under the agreement is one who is “unable to read or use standard printed material due to blindness, visual disability, physical limitations, organic dysfunction, or dyslexia.” Blind people, like other members of the public, will be able to search the texts of books in the Google Books database online; purchase some books in an accessible format; borrow accessible digital copies of books through participating libraries; or access accessible books at libraries and other entities that have an institutional subscription to the Google Books database.