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Google, Authors Try To Answer Book Deal Concerns


Sat, Nov 14, 2009 at 11:19 am

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — Google and the
    Authors Guild filed a new version of a deal to create a massive
    online library on Friday in hopes of answering antitrust and
    copyright concerns in the United States and overseas.

    Google’s plan to put millions of books online has been
    praised for expanding access to books but has also been
    criticized on antitrust, copyright and privacy grounds.

    According to a 30-page court filing made by the parties
    late on Friday, a section was eliminated that required the book
    registry created by the settlement to give Google at least as
    good a deal as any competitor.

    In another shift, money from unclaimed or orphan works will
    go to an independent fiduciary rather than go to the registry.

    The Justice Department, in September, had pointed to that
    arrangement as a conflict of interest since it was the registry
    that was also tasked with locating writers and paying them for
    their online sales.

    Under the new deal, unclaimed funds will eventually go to

    The class action agreement must be approved by a court, and
    the Justice Department had recommended that the previous
    version be rejected because of concerns that it might break
    antitrust law. It also had concerns about violations of
    copyright law.

    "We’ve had numerous discussions and quite a lot of dialogue
    with the Justice Department and feel we’ve addressed their key
    concerns," said Richard Sarnoff, president of Bertelsmann
    Digital Media.

    The agreement is designed to settle a 2005 class action
    lawsuit filed against Google by authors and publishers who had
    accused the search engine giant of copyright infringement for
    scanning libraries full of books.


    As part of the amended deal, books in the registry would be
    reduced to those copyrighted in the United States or published
    in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

    There had been significant international objection to the
    deal on the grounds that non-English speaking authors, in
    particular, were represented by the authors and publishers who
    sued Google but had no say in negotiating the deal.

    Dan Clancy, architect of the Google program, said the
    search giant would reach out to authors’ groups overseas.

    German book publishers have been up in arms about the deal,
    and on Sept. 24 they criticized European regulators for failing
    to take a stand against the settlement.

    The French publishing house La Martiniere, the French
    Publishers’ Association and authors’ group SGDL asked a Paris
    court to fine Google for infringement for digitizing their

    On Oct. 22, a group representing authors in China accused
    Google of copyright infringement.

    Critics of the deal have been a varied group that includes
    Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft, the
    National Writers Union, Consumer Watchdog and singer Arlo

    The case is Authors Guild et al v Google Inc 05-08136 in
    U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

    (Reporting by Diane Bartz, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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