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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Proposed Google Book Search Settlement Rejected

The long-awaited decision on the Google Book Search settlement came out this week, with Judge Chin rejecting the current proposal. If you recall, this is the case involving the Author's Guild and their claims of copyright infringement resulting from Google's mass scanning of library content. The story is expected to get wide-spread coverage this week. For example, see the Wall Street Journal article from yesterday afternoon.

In his decision, Judge Chin wrote:

While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the [Amended Settlement Agreement (ASA)] would simply go oo far. It would permit this class action—which was brought against defendant Google Inc. to challenge its scanning of books and display of “snippets” for on-line searching—to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.

The question now is, "What's next?" The judge did indicate that switching from opt-out to opt-in would resolve many of the concerns. That certainly would help for books in print, and perhaps even for many of the books out of print, but what about the many orphan works that exist? Secondarily, what does this mean for bookstores signing up with Google Editions? Or more generally, what does it mean for Google?

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