[nfb-talk] Google Books settlement Delayed Indefinitely

David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Tue Sep 29 07:38:35 UTC 2009

September 24, 2009, 6:34 pm

Google Books Settlement Delayed Indefinitely


Miguel Helft

As currently written, the controversial settlement between


and groups representing publishers and authors is officially dead. On
Thursday, a federal judge gave the parties time to negotiate a new deal that

address some of the many objections filed by various groups.

Judge Denny Chin of the United States District Court for the Southern
District of New York granted a motion to delay an Oct. 7 hearing on the

which would pave the way for Google to create an immense digital library and
bookstore. The motion

was filed earlier this week

by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, the
plaintiffs in the case, and was unopposed by Google, the defendant.

Judge Chin said that it made no sense to hold a hearing on the current
settlement since the parties have indicated that they are negotiating

changes to it.


his order

, Judge Chin indicated that he took seriously the long list of objections
that various parties have raised about the agreement.

"The current settlement agreement raises significant issues, as demonstrated
not only by the number of objections, but also by the fact that the

include countries, states, nonprofit organizations, and prominent authors
and law professors," Judge Chin wrote. "Clearly, fair concerns have been

But Judge Chin also echoed comments made by the Justice Department last week
that the settlement, if properly revised, could offer great benefits, most

notably, by providing broad access to millions of out-of-print books that
are largely locked up in a small group of university libraries.

"The settlement would offer many benefits to society, as recognized by
supporters of the settlement as well as D.O.J.," he wrote, referring to the

Department of Justice

, which

filed its own brief in the case

last week. "It would appear that if a fair and reasonable settlement can be
struck, the public would benefit."

The first clear signs that the settlement in its current form would be
derailed came late Friday, when the Justice Department raised a number of
legal and

antitrust objections to it. In its brief, the department also said that the

appeared willing to renegotiate many aspects of the agreement

to overcome its opposition

The decision by the plaintiffs to ask for more time represents a stark
reversal from earlier this year. In April, a group of authors and the heirs
of others,

including representatives of the estate of John Steinbeck, first asked the
court to delay the fairness hearing and deadline for filing objections. The

authors asked for a four-month delay, and the parties, eager to have the
agreement approved quickly, reluctantly recommended a two-month delay. Judge

sided with the authors.

Observers say the delay provided the time necessary for the many critics of
the deal, including the Justice Department, to come forward. The court

more than 400 filings, the majority of them raising issues about various
parts of the agreement.

Instead of the scheduled fairness hearing, Judge Chin asked the parties to
convene in court on Oct. 7 for a status conference. The purpose of the

is to "determine how to proceed with the case as expeditiously as possible,
as this case has now been pending for more than four years," he wrote.

The Authors Guild and the Association of American sued Google in 2005 for
copyright infringement over the company's plan to scan books from major

and make them available online. The parties announced the settlement, which
took two years to negotiate, in October.

The settlement also appears to be facing another

challenge in a French court.

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