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Google Books: Back to the Drawing Board

Posted by: Douglas MacMillan on October 07, 2009

A mountain of objections to Google’s proposed book settlement prompted New York District Court Judge Denny Chin on Wednesday to call for a revision. Google and its ally in the agreement, the Authors Guild, will have until Nov. 9 to submit an amended version. The delay was widely expected after the U.S. Justice Dept. filed a brief with the court on Sept. 18 highly critical of the proposed plan.

Now, everyone wants to know where Google will give. As first reported by Bloomberg last month, the company is working directly with the Justice Dept. on a revised settlement. So whatever lands on Judge Chin’s desk in November will likely carry the implicit approval of the government agency.

But don’t expect a complete overhaul, says Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken. “The basic deal is not changing,” he says. The revised settlement will contain changes to “a limited set of clauses that address the concerns raised by the Justice Dept,” Aiken adds.

The process is likely to ignore the more significant amendments suggested by the Open Book Alliance, a group opposing the settlement that represents companies like Microsoft and Amazon, the nonprofit Internet Archive, and trade groups like American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). Salley Shannon, president of the ASJA, believes Google is still likely to include a new electronic registry for publishers and authors that wrests control away from the existing author registry.

And since the Justice Dept. didn’t insist on the settlement being “opt-in” for all participants, the new version is likely to automatically include copyright holders who will have to ask to be removed.

Still, Shannon says the revised plan could pass muster. “I am hoping that it will be something that we can support,” she says. One new provision that’s probable in her mind is the inclusion of more authors groups beyond just the Authors Guild.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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