After Criticism, Google Modifies Book Settlement Deal

Broadband's Impact November 14th, 2009

, Reporter, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, November 14, 2009 – Google and related parties have reached a revised settlement agreement concerning Google’s project to make library books available online.

“We’re disappointed that we won’t be able to provide access to as many books from as many countries through the settlement as a result of our modifications, but we look forward to continuing to work with rightsholders from around the world to fulfill our longstanding mission of increasing access to all the world’s books,” wrote Google Books Engineering Director Dan Clancy in a blog entry posted Friday at 11:54 p.m. Eastern time.

The revised agreement is the latest update in a case that has gone on since 2005 when a number of publishers and authors’ associations launched a class action lawsuit against Google in U.S. courts for its plan to scan millions of library books and make them accessible online.

Google has contended that its project protects copyright holders “by making sure that when users find a book under copyright, they see only a card catalog-style entry providing basic information about the book and no more than two or three sentences of text surrounding the search term to help them determine whether they’ve found what they’re looking for.” The project has become controversial, claims Google, “because some in the publishing community question whether any third party should be able to copy and index copyrighted works so that users can search through them, even if all a user sees is the bibliographic information and a few snippets of text, and even if the result is to make those books widely discoverable online and help the authors and publishers sell more of them.”

In 2008 Google reached an agreement with the Author’s Guild and the Association of American Publishers. Last month the U.S. Justice Department advised the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that it should not accept the proposed class action settlement due to concerns by the government regarding class action, copyright and antitrust law. Justice also proposed the parties consider a number of changes to the agreement to address its concerns.

On November 13, the parties to the settlement filed an amended agreement with the court. “Over the last several months, we have been carefully reviewing the submissions filed with the Court, including that of the Department of Justice. The changes made to the settlement were developed to address many of these concerns, while preserving the core benefits of the agreement,” said Google.

According to the Authors Guild, the revised settlement narrows the class to “authors and publishers of works registered in the U.S. and authors and publishers of works published in the three other countries that have contributed the largest number of English-language works to American libraries: Australia, Canada, and the U.K.” The settlement would also establish an independent fiduciary approved by the court that would be responsible for decisions regarding unclaimed works. Any unclaimed funds after 10 years would go to charities.

“Future business models have been pared down to three: individual subscriptions, print-on-demand, and digital downloads. None of these business models can be implemented by Google without approval of the Registry’s board, and none can be implemented without notice to all claiming rightsholders, who will have the absolute right not to participate,” according to the Authors Guild. The group also said that authors may remove their works from Google’s database by March 9, 2012, though it does not advocate removal.

Going forward, Google said the court is expected to set a timeline, which will likely include a notice period, an objection period, and a final fairness hearing in early 2010.

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