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Last-Minute Objections Filed To Google Book Settlement

By AGENCE PRESS FRANCE

Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 1:34 pm

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Critics of the revised legal settlement with US authors
and publishers that would allow Google to scan and sell millions of
books online filed a flurry of last-minute objections on Thursday.

Judge
Denny Chin is to hold a hearing on February 18 on Google’s vast digital
book project and the deadline for filing briefs in the case was
Thursday.

Among those submitting objections were online retail
giant Amazon, Consumer Watchdog, half-a-dozen French publishing houses,
fantasy fiction author Ursula K. Le Guin, the Open Book Alliance and
others.

Amazon, which makes the popular Kindle electronic book
reader and runs a digital bookstore of its own, said the revised
agreement violates anti-trust and copyright law and urged the judge to
reject it.

Google in 2008 reached a settlement with the Authors
Guild and the Association of American Publishers to a copyright
infringement suit they filed against the Mountain View, California
company in 2005.

Under the settlement, Google agreed to pay 125
million dollars to resolve outstanding claims and establish an
independent "Book Rights Registry," which would provide revenue from
sales and advertising to authors and publishers who agree to digitize
their books.

Amid objections from France, Germany, the US Justice
Department and others, Google and the authors and publishers drafted
the modified deal which is before the court.

The revised
agreement narrowed the definition of books covered under the settlement
to those registered with the US Copyright Office by January 2009 or
published in Australia, Britain, Canada or the United States.

The
Justice Department has until February 4 to make its views known but the
revised deal does not appear to have placated some of its original
opponents.

"The proposed settlement threatens to bottleneck the
access to and distribution and pricing of the largest, private digital
database of books in the world," the Open Book Alliance said.

"Google
is focused on becoming the sole owner of an immense digital library
that will improve the company’s advertising-based search business," it
said.

The Open Book Alliance includes Amazon, Microsoft and
Yahoo!, the New York Library Association, the Internet Archive, a San
Francisco-based non-profit with a digital book-scanning project of its
own, and others.

Consumer Watchdog said "the revised settlement suffers from the same fundamental problems as its predecessor."

It
said it notably fails to do enough to protect reader privacy, violates
copyright laws and gives "unfair competitive advantages to Google."

Best-selling
author Le Guin filed a petition signed by more than 365 other writers
asking judge Chin to exempt the United States from the settlement — a
move that would effectively torpedo the agreement.

In her
petition, she said the settlement was negotiated by the Authors Guild
"without consultation with any other group of authors or American
authors as a whole."

Last week, the heirs of American author John
Steinbeck and folk singer Woody Guthrie dropped their opposition to the
settlement, which Google says would make many out-of-print books
available online.

"If approved by the court, this settlement
stands to unlock access to millions of books in the US while giving
authors and publishers new ways to distribute their work," a Google
spokesperson told AFP earlier this week.

Among the Authors Guild
members supporting the settlement are Wally Lamb, Simon Winchester,
Beverly Cleary, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Garrison Keillor and Elmore
Leonard.

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