Press Release

Google, Others Ask For Delay In Book Search Settlement


Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 10:51 am

    With opponents to the ambitious Google Book Search settlement continuing to emerge, Google as well as authors and publishers have asked for a two-month delay in the search case.

    "The settlement is highly detailed, and we want to make sure rights-holders everywhere have enough time to think about it and make sure it’s right for them," Google associate general counsel Alexander Macgillivray wrote Monday on the company’s public policy blog.

    The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers sued Google in 2005, alleging that the search company infringed copyright by digitizing books. The settlement agreement, filed with the court in October, calls for Google to fund a new book rights registry and allows the company to digitize books and sell downloads at prices it sets with the registry.

    Authors, publishers and other copyright holders can opt out of the class settlement — but must do so by May 5, unless U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin grants an extension. Google has asked for a 60-day extension, but others have requested a longer opt-out period.

    On Friday, a group of copyright holders, including heirs of John Steinbeck and the Philip K. Dick Testamentary Trust, asked Chin to postpone the opt-out deadline until Sept. 7.

    Some observers have criticized the pact because they fear it would give Google an unfair advantage — especially when it comes to "orphan works," or material under copyright, but whose owners can’t be found. The deal would allow Google to publish such works without fear of liability for copyright infringement.

    New York Law School Institute for Information Law & Policy intends to file a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that federal antitrust authorities should weigh in on the case because of its treatment of orphan works.

    Associate Professor James Grimmelmann said the settlement’s upside is that such works would become available to the public, but the drawback is that Google would become the sole company able to publish orphan works without facing potential copyright lawsuits. Giving Google that potential advantage could raise antitrust issues, Grimmelmann contends. The law school’s efforts are being partially funded by Microsoft.

    Earlier this month, advocacy group Consumer Watchdog also criticized the settlement on the grounds that it would give Google "an effective monopoly over digitized books" and asked the Department of Justice to intervene.

    In addition, the Internet Archive asked to intervene as a party in the case, arguing that it would like the same protection from copyright infringement liability regarding orphan works as Google will have. Chin denied that request Friday, but said the Internet Archive could still weigh in on the case by filing objections to the settlement or a friend-of-the-court brief.

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