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Google, Authors Try To Answer Book Deal Concerns

By REUTERS

Sat, Nov 14, 2009 at 11:19 am

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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
charities.

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.

INTERNATIONAL OBJECTIONS

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
books.

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
Guthrie.

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

(Reporting by Diane Bartz, Editing by Sandra Maler)

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