Press Release

Fairness Hearing Postponed For Google Books Deal


Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 9:33 am

    NEW YORK, NY — A judge noted the many objections to a $125 million deal
    giving Google Inc. digital rights to millions of out-of-print books as
    he agreed Thursday to postpone a fairness hearing so the agreement can
    be rewritten to comply with copyright and antitrust laws.

    District Judge Denny Chin said the deal reached last year between U.S.
    authors and publishers and Google "raises significant issues, as
    demonstrated not only by the number of objections, but also by the fact
    that the objectors include countries, states, nonprofit organizations,
    and prominent authors and law professors."

    He added: "Clearly, fair concerns have been raised."

    encouraged the parties to revise the settlement as quickly as possible,
    saying a fair deal "would offer many benefits to society." He cited a
    statement by the Department of Justice saying an agreement "has the
    potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now
    effectively off limits to the public."

    In a statement, Google
    highlighted Chin’s words of encouragement and reiterated its belief
    that a court-approved settlement would "unlock access to millions of
    books in the U.S. while giving authors and publishers new ways to
    distribute their work."

    The comments in Chin’s two-page order
    indicated the judge had taken a critical look at the settlement after
    receiving nearly 400 submissions about the deal, many of them
    expressing disapproval.

    The Department of Justice said last week
    that the agreement as it now stands probably violates antitrust law.
    That conclusion led plaintiffs including The Authors Guild and the
    Association of American Publishers to say that they and Mountain View,
    Calif.-based Google had decided to renegotiate.

    This time, the plaintiffs said, negotiations will include Justice Department officials.

    judge said it made no sense to stage the fairness hearing on Oct. 7
    when it appears that the deal will be rewritten. He asked parties to
    the case to appear on that date to discuss how it will proceed but said
    he will not hear from objectors or supporters, though they are free to

    In a statement on its Web site acknowledging the
    postponement, The Authors Guild said: "We’ll continue to work on
    amending the settlement to address the Justice Department’s concerns."

    M. Simpson, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog who testified
    about the deal before the House Judiciary Committee, said any agreement
    should also involve input from Congress.

    He said the agreement as it now stands would have given Google a monopoly over the digitizing of books.

    "The judge put his fingers exactly on the issues in the case," Simpson said.

    AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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