Bloomberg News

Google, Publishers Seek More Time to Reach Book-Scan Accord

June 01, 2011

(Updates with publisher group’s statement in third paragraph.)

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. and a group of publishers and authors told a federal judge they are discussing options toward a possible settlement of a book-scanning lawsuit against Google and asked for 60 days to continue talks.

In March, U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in New York rejected a proposed $125 million settlement over the largest Web-search provider’s plan to create the world’s biggest digital library, saying the deal would be unfair to authors.

“Since Judge Chin’s rejection of the negotiated settlement agreement on March 22, the parties have held conversations to determine if a revised agreement is possible that would meet the court’s objections,” Tom Allen, the Association of American Publishers Inc.’s president, said in an e-mailed statement today. “Those conversations are ongoing and if not successful, the litigation will resume in order to protect the intellectual property rights of authors and publishers.”

In court today, Chin set a hearing for July 19.

“We have been working closely with the authors and publishers to explore a number of options in response to the court’s decision,” Megan Lamb, a Google spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. “Regardless of the outcome, we’ll continue to make the world’s books discoverable online through Google Books and Google eBooks.”

In rejecting the original settlement, Chin said it “would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of copyright owners.”

The proposed accord “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,” he said.

‘Go Too Far’

The judge also said in March that the expansive nature of the original settlement, which called for copyright owners to opt out or be automatically included, “would simply go too far.” He suggested the settlement would have a better chance at approval were it revised to cover only those who opt into the agreement.

Chin, who now sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals, was a district-court judge when the case first came before him.

Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp., AT&T Inc. and the nations of Germany and France were among objectors who said the agreement would give Google unfair control over digitized works, while some author groups said they would lose control of their copyrights.

Google was sued in 2005 by authors and publishers who said the company was infringing their copyrights on a massive scale by digitizing books and allowing “snippets” of them to be seen online.

Out-of-Print

The rejected agreement focused on out-of-print books still protected by U.S. copyright law. Google struck agreements with publishers to allow limited access to books that are still commercially available, and the site has links to let consumers buy the books from various sources, including Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

The settlement would have given Google immunity from copyright laws, allowing the company to distribute millions of books on the Internet in exchange for sharing revenue it generates.

The U.S. Justice Department also objected to the earlier accord, saying the agreement might have given Mountain View, California-based Google an anticompetitive advantage.

The earlier settlement was reached with the Authors Guild, Pearson Plc’s Penguin and Education units, McGraw-Hill Cos., John Wiley & Sons Inc. and CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster subsidiary.

The case is Authors Guild v. Google Inc., 05-CV-8136, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

--With assistance from David Glovin and Bob Van Voris in New York and Susan Decker in Washington. Editors: Peter Blumberg, Andrew Dunn

To contact the reporters on this story: Patricia Hurtado in New York at pathurtado@bloomberg.net; Don Jeffrey in New York at djeffrey1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net


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