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Google Book Settlement Round 2

Don't Hold Your Breath

The US government filed its Statement of Interest regarding the revised Google settlement yesterday with the District Court in New York. While the statement was signed by an attorney from the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department, several agencies including the Copyright Office reportedly contributed to it.

Tools of ChangeAs you may recall, the judge has only 2 choices: he can approve the settlement, or send it back to the parties for revision. He cannot modify it himself.

The US government statement advises the judge that the public interest would be best served by sending the settlement back, and points out that the revised version still suffers from the “same core problem” that afflicted the first version: “an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the Court in this litigation.”

The press reports that I’ve seen take the government’s statement as an emphatic thumbs down.

The judge has scheduled a hearing for February 18 in his Manhattan courtroom.

It is very unlikely that the judge will approve this version of the settlement. Also, he may once again decide to postpone a full-fledged fairness hearing-although the many objectors, large and small, are eager to have their day in court. Because the parties withdrew the proposed settlement before the originally scheduled fairness hearing occurred in October 2009, the judge has not yet formally considered the many objections filed to date on the revised settlement or those filed in anticipation of the fairness hearing cancelled last October.

Bottom line for the long term: even if the judge sends the settlement back, and even if the parties agree to deadlines as short as the deadlines for this presumably ill-fated revision, there is no resolution in sight for the litigation.

Whether the case is tried or the settlement discussions continue, the legal end point will not be the trial judgment or settlement approval issued by the district court judge. The end point will be the disposition of the final appeal from that district court judgment or approved settlement, and that disposition is years away.

It’s hard to imagine what relevance the final legal disposition would have then, as public and private innovators are not sitting on their hands, waiting for the judge to sort this out.

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  • David Megginson

    I was reading an interview with one of my fellow book authors recently (not in IT). She knew that she could have her book removed from Google Books altogether, but didn’t want to give up the free marketing; she was hoping the court action would result in free marketing *and* a payout from Google.

    Sleezy and disgusting.

  • Alison

    So wishing to have one’s cake and eat it too is more exceptionable than taking other peoples’ cake and selling it?

    The sad thing is that making out of print work accessible is a worthy idea, both in terms of social benefit and opportunity for authors. Or it would have been, had living authors been offered opt-in and the terms of the deal been laid out in advance. The way true open access publishing works.

    And yes. I’m an author. Opted out.

  • bowerbird

    it’s sad. it’s just all so sad.

    making our socio-cultural history available to all
    should’ve been a grand gesture, big-picture thing.

    but instead, it’s now devolved into a selfish exercise
    in grabbing a piece of the pie and being unsatisfied,
    thanks to a suit by publishers and yesterday’s authors.

    it’s become petty, a painful negotiation of paragraphs.

    well listen up, publishers and yesterday’s authors…
    instead of fighting to make sure that things were fair
    for both google _and_ all of you, now i just don’t care.
    fight it out for yourselves, and a pox on all your houses.

    oh yeah, and tomorrow’s authors are gonna eat your lunch.
    because instead of fighting the internet with selfishness,
    they’re going to _use_ the internet with their selflessness.

    we’re gonna leave all your pettiness behind. good riddance.

    -bowerbird

  • David Megginson

    Alison: Google allows a full book to be searched, but if it’s still in copyright, you can’t read the whole thing online, just a tiny excerpt. It’s exactly the same thing as providing search results for a web site (which are covered by the same copyright laws).

    I’ve written two books for major publishers (Prentice-Hall and Addison-Wesley) and have contributed chapters to several others, and I’m still dumbfounded that authors are complaining about this. They are, however, free to opt out, just as you have, and just like a web site owner can opt out of the Google search index. Note that most web site owners, though, are trying to get *into* Google’s search index.