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NYC judge rejects Google book settlement

March 22, 2011

Tags: Google Book Settlement

After prolonged discussions of various positions (pro and con) on the Google book settlement, we have a decision. From his New York court, Judge Denny Chin has rejected the settlement, as going too far. The court concluded that the $125 million deal would allow Google (already a virtual monopoly) to "exploit" books without the permission of copyright owners. It concluded that the settlement might work if it were changed from an “opt out” to an “opt in” settlement. It denied the motion for approval without prejudice, meaning that it will reconsider the settlement if the parties can renegotiate a revised agreement.

Here are some early reactions and news stories:
NYC judge rejects Google settlement with authors, publishers over firm’s huge digital library (Associated Press, as carried in Washington Post, 3-22-11)

Judge Rejects Google Books Settlement (Amir Efrati, WSJ, 3-22-11)

Scott Turow (Authors Guild) on Google Ruling. “Regardless of the outcome of our discussions with publishers and Google, opening up far greater access to out-of-print books through new technologies that create new markets is an idea whose time has come,” said Mr.Turow. “Readers want access to these unavailable works, and authors need every market they can get. There has to be a way to make this happen. It’s a top priority for the Authors Guild.”

TeleRead summarizes the bases for Judge Chin's decision (Paul Biba, TeleRead 3-22-11)

And you can read the decision itself:
Judge Denny Chin’s 48-page decision on the proposed settlement of the Google litigation, released March 22, 2011 (PDF)

There is more on background and the issues at Google Book Settlement (Pro and con) on Writers and Editors.

Added 3-23-11:
Am looking thoughtfully at an older article I didn't see before:

Google's Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars (Geoffrey Nunberg, Chronicle of Higher Education, 3-31-09). Nunberg writes:

"...50 or 100 years from now control of the collection may pass from Google to somebody else—Elsevier, Unesco, Wal-Mart. But it's safe to assume that the digitized books that scholars will be working with then will be the very same ones that are sitting on Google's servers today, augmented by the millions of titles published in the interim.

"That realization lends a particular urgency to the concerns that people have voiced about the settlement —about pricing, access, and privacy, among other things. But for scholars, it raises another, equally basic question: What assurances do we have that Google will do this right?

"Doing it right depends on what exactly 'it' is. Google has been something of a shape-shifter in describing the project. The company likes to refer to Google's book search as a 'library,' but it generally talks about books as just another kind of information resource to be incorporated into Greater Google."

and later:
"to pose those [research] questions, you need reliable metadata about dates and categories, which is why it's so disappointing that the book search's metadata are a train wreck: a mishmash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess."

Read the whole story here.


  1. March 23, 2011 12:23 PM EDT
    Another reaction: • Judge rejects Google's attempt to create a universal library (Laurie Segall, CNN Money 3-22-2011). "Google's settlement agreement is a complex, 166-page document. While the company took pains to protect the rights of copyright holders -- only tiny snippets are revealed from in-print books -- it put the burden on authors and publishers to police their works' inclusion in the archive. Google will remove books on request, but without an explicit request, it will otherwise digitize anything it can get hold of. That didn't sit well with Judge Chin. He also expressed concern over the agreement's handling of "orphaned" books -- works that are still under copyright, but no longer in print. "'The questions of who should be entrusted with guardianship over orphan books, under what terms, and with what safeguards are matters more appropriately decided by Congress than through an agreement among private, self-interested parties,' Chin wrote in his ruling."
    - PM
  2. March 25, 2011 12:28 PM EDT
    And another: Google Books: Headed for the Bonfire? (Erik Sherman, BNET Wired In blog, 3-23-11, which links to his earlier posts). Sherman writes: "The two sides negotiated a highly controversial settlement that drew extensive criticism from the Department of Justice, including the following: * "Class action suits generally address past actions. This one allowed Google to display copyrighted works in the future for anyone who did not opt out of the agreement. * "It seemed questionable that any representative could adequately represent all rights owners, especially those who were unreachable but who owned rights to books that were under copyright protection but out of print. * "Google needed active permission to use the in-print works but not out-of-print. Rights owners that did not claim money within five years would forfeit their money to those already registered. So the deal was stacked in the favor of those with rights to books currently in print, even though Google wanted to scan and display the out-of-print books."
    - PM
  3. February 8, 2016 3:18 PM EST
    For updates on the Google Book settlement, go here: Google Book Settlement (Pro and Con)
    - PM