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Publishers and Authors Ask To Delay Google Hearing To Negotiate New Settlement | Inside Google
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Press Release

Publishers and Authors Ask To Delay Google Hearing To Negotiate New Settlement

CONTACT: 310-374-2901 cell 310 292-1902

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 2:07 pm

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Consumer Watchdog Says Copyright Issues For Congress, Not Closed-Door Deals

SANTA M0NICA, CA —Publisher and author associations sought today to cancel a key hearing in the Google Books case to allow private negotiations with Google over digitizing books online. Consumer Watchdog warned that important issues affecting copyright law should not be negotiated behind closed doors.

Notice of the  motion was filed in U.S. District Court today after the Department of Justice raised objections to the proposed Google Books deal late last Friday.  The nonpartisan, nonprofit Consumer Watchdog had also filed an amicus brief opposing the settlement.  A hearing was scheduled before Judge Denny Chin on Oct. 7, but the publishers and authors associations said they are negotiating a new deal with Google and claimed it would make no sense for a hearing until that is reached.

Read the publishers and authors filing here.

Consumer Watchdog said the settlement cannot be approved in the face of antitrust and other objections by Justice and  key copyright issues must be settled by Congress in a fully public process.

“Essentially Google and the authors and publishers groups are back at square one and must re-negotiate the deal,” said John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog. “But important copyright issues shouldn’t be settled in closed-door negotiations among parties in a private suit. Questions like how to handle ‘orphan works’ are issues that must be resolved through Congressional action.”

Orphan works are works under copyright, but with the rights holders unknown or not found.  The risk of using such works is that a rights holder will emerge after the book has been exploited and demand substantial infringement penalties. The original settlement would have protected Google from such potentially damaging exposure, but provided no protection for others.  This effectively is a barrier for competitors to enter the digital book business.

Consumer Watchdog asked the Justice Department last April to intervene in the Google Books settlement because of antitrust concerns. The law firm of Kasowitz, Benson filed an amicus brief in New York’s Southern U.S. District Court opposing the deal on Consumer Watchdog’s behalf. On Sept. 10 Simpson was one of eight witnesses to testify about the deal to the House Judiciary Committee.

Read the Department of Justice brief here.

Read Consumer Watchdog’s amicus brief here.

Read the testimony and see a video of the Judiciary hearing here.

The case in U.S. District Court’s Southern District of New York stems from a suit brought by The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers.

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Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, Ca.  Our website is www.consumerwatchdog.org.

Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP is a national law firm with over 300 lawyers specializing in high stakes, complex litigation.  The firm has offices in New York, Newark, Houston, Atlanta, Miami and San Francisco. For more information, visit www.kasowitz.com.  Contact: Daniel Fetterman, 212-506-1934, dfetterman@kasowitz.com or Peter Toren, 212-506-1986, ptoren@kasowitz.com.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 363 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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