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Author's Guild v. Google - The latest developments

  • After the settlement in the class action lawsuit between Google and the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers was announced last October, nearly 400 parties have filed positions on the proposed settlement, with the majority of them opposing the deal. Amazon, Yahoo and Microsoft e.g. fear that the deal would give Google too much control over orphan works. Google co-founder Sergey Brin reacted to the critics of the settlement, saying that Google was the only company that has stepped up to scan the millions of out-of-print books and make them available to users. Companies that are complaining are doing nothing for them. (see Google Co-founder Sergey Brin Fires Back at Google Book Search Critics

  • The German Governement has lodged an objection to the deal between Google and the Authors Guild alleging that it would undermine the rights of German authors within the US. In its weekly podcast, German Chancellor Merkel said there are considerable dangers for copyright protection on the Internet. "That’s why we reject the scanning in of books without any copyright protection — like Google is doing. The government places a lot of weight on this position on copyrights to protect writers in Germany.

  • The European Commission has called for a "European solution" to book digitisation. But a cooperation with Google might be possible. "Digitisation of books is a task of Herculean proportions which the public sector needs to guide, but where it also needs private-sector support. It is therefore time to recognise that partnerships between public and private bodies can combine the potential of new technologies and private investments with the rich collections of public institutions built up over the centuries. If we are too slow to go digital, Europe's culture could suffer in the future," said a joint statement by Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding and Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy. Please note, there is already a digital library of scanned works in Europe, Europeana. See: EU calls for European solution to book digisation, Outlaw.

  • Google has agreed to change the proposed settlement after the Department of Justice said it opposed the deal: "A global disposition of the rights to millions of copyrighted works is typically the kind of policy change implemented through legislation, not through a private judicial settlement. If such a significant (and potentially beneficial) policy change is to be made through the mechanism of a class action settlement (as opposed to legislation), the United States respectfully submits that this Court should undertake a particularly searching analysis to ensure that the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 ('Rule 23') are met and that the settlement is consistent with copyright law and antitrust law. As presently drafted, the Proposed Settlement does not meet the legal standards this Court must apply." But the DOJ also stressed the positive effects of the greement: "The Proposed Settlement has the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits to the public. By allowing users to search the text of millions of books at no cost, the Proposed Settlement would open the door to new research opportunities."

  • The fairness hearing was postponed and New York District Judge Denny Chin ordered the parties to present the revamped deal to the court Nov. 9. The final hearing could happen as soon as late December or early January.

    Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, said in an interview that “the core agreement is going to stay the same.

 It's my guess that the revised settlement agreement will

  • exclude foreign authors and publishers from the class so that the settlement has no impact on them. This would eliminate many objections raised by the German and French government. Let's be honest, Book Search is a service for people in the US. I think Google can live with excluding works from foreign authors, most of them probably not written in English. Google was criticised for not having translated the settlement agreement. Some authors saw a violation of an international treaty, the RBÜ. All these objections could easily be wiped away (but there would still be one problem: Google has already scanned many books of foreign author's. What would happen with them? Will Google only continue showing snippets, claiming this to be fair use?). 

  • explicitly give the book right's registry the right to licence orphan works to Google's competitors. Google might accept this as long as the registry is not allowed to give competitors a better deal than itself for the next 10 years.

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