Google Books Settlement Rewrite

Last October, Google made a deal with the book authors and publishers representing a class action lawsuit that accused Google Books of violating their rights. Since it was released to the public, there has been a lot of debate about whether it is appropriate and fair.

In speaking with my colleagues about the issue, I voiced quite a few concerns. These were the most important to me (in no particular order):

  • The settlement was brokered by a small percentage of those who would be affected by it.
  • It created a virtual monopoly, because Google would be the only one with licenses to use the orphan works (books without identified authors) which account for a big portion of the books at issue.
  • It failed to speak to prices that would be charged, leaving the real possibility that prices would reflect Google’s lack of competition.

Well, apparently I was in good company (although, not all of my colleagues agreed with me). The fairness hearing about the settlement has been postponed in the wake of oppostion from Amazon.com, Microsoft, Yahoo, the Open Book Alliance, the Copyright Office, the Justice Department, Germany, France, and many others.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin sent the parties back to the drawing board to address some of the concerns that had been raised. While the Judge recognized the value to be had by a settlement, he also recognized that the current agreement probably violates antitrust law.

I might be biased, but I think he made a great decision. We’ll see what happens next.

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