Court ruling on Google Books settlement postponed

A New York District Court has yet to make a decision on whether or not to approve Google's revised settlement with US authors and publishers to scan millions of books to be sold online

A New York District Court has yet to make a decision on whether or not to approve Google's revised settlement with US authors and publishers to scan millions of books to be sold online.

Presiding judge Denny Chin said he would not reach an immediate decision at the end of the fairness hearing on 18 February because of the amount of feedback from 27 different parties, but did not say when a ruling would be issued.

Supporters praised the fact that the deal would make hard-to-find books available in electronic form to more readers, but opponents expressed strong copyright, privacy and monopoly concerns.

The original October 2008 agreement between Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers was revised in November 2009 in response to Department of Justice concerns over copyright.

Google said the amended agreement was fair, reasonable and adequate, and the court should grant the motion for final settlement approval.

But the DoJ, the National Writers Union, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America said the amended version was also no good.

The Open Book Alliance, a group of authors, publishers and Google rivals opposed to the settlement, said ahead of the hearing that the agreement was not a philanthropic effort to bring literature into the 21st century and bridge a literary divide.

"In reality, Google is focused on becoming the sole owner of an immense private digital library that will further entrench the dominance of the company's multibillion dollar advertising-based search business," the group said in a statement.

In a submission to the court, the alliance also highlighted the existence of secret side deals among the parties that actually control the settlement terms.

But the UK-based Publishers Association has issued a statement in support of the revised settlement, saying that by taking part in the process, it had won UK rightsholders more control over their works.

"I'm confident that the revisions we were able to negotiate on condition of our support are beneficial for all UK publishers who choose to remain in the settlement," said Simon Juden, chief executive of the Publishers Association.

Withholding support would have excluded UK works from the scope of the settlement and deprived UK rightsholders of control over how their works are exploited, he added.

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