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At Hearing On Google Books, Critics Reiterate Opposition


Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    A hearing on Google’s plan to digitize millions of books is under way in a packed federal courtroom in New York this morning, with news wires reporting that Judge Denny Chin would issue no ruling at today’s hearing because there was "too much to digest."

    In press releases this morning outlining their testimony, critics of the plan reiterated their opposition.

    “In essence Google’s latest arguments seem to boil down to this: ‘Our motto is don’t be evil, so you can trust us to control the world’s digital library,’ said John Simpson, with a group called Consumer Watchdog which has criticized Google on privacy issues.

    “Copyright is the lynch pin upon which writers depend to control and profit from their work,” said Michael Capobianco of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. If the settlement is approved, it “would create the worst kind of precedent, turning copyright on its head and forcing writers into an unwanted business arrangement against their will,” he wrote.

    Google cut a deal through a class-action settlement with authors and publishers that would let the search giant scan out-of-print works and create a massive digital library. Google’s competitors, library groups and dozens of others have objected to the settlement.

    Both sides of the deal have exchanged attacks in recent weeks, with critics including the Justice Department raising copyright and antitrust concerns. The controversy is focused on the ability the settlement would give Google to publish so-called “orphan works”, or those whose ownership is unclear.

    In the past, companies have refrained from scanning such books for fear for getting hit with massive fines when an owner turned up. This settlement would give Google immunity from such lawsuits.

    In a filing last week, Google said that no one “seriously disputes that approval of the settlement will open the virtual doors to the greatest library in history, without costing authors a dime they now receive or are likely to receive if the settlement is not approved.”

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