Money Matters - Simplified

Court postpones Google book deal hearing

The Authors Guild, the AAP and Google will be working to revise the settlement so that they can get a final approval from the court to carry forward the book scanning project

New York, September 25 -- Granting requests made by the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers (AAP), the New York District Court Judge Denny Chin ordered postponement of Oct. 7 fairness hearing on Google’s book scanning project.

"Under all the circumstances, it makes no sense to conduct a hearing on the fairness and reasonableness of the current settlement agreement, as it does not appear that the current settlement will be the operative one," Judge Chin wrote.

Now Authors Guild, the AAP and Google will be working to revise the settlement so that it can get a final approval from the court to carry forward its book scanning project.

Modification is in public interest
Judge Chin added that the modifications in the proposed settlement would offer substantial public benefit as recognized by authors, publishers and the Department of Justice (DOJ).

DOJ believes that a properly structured agreement "has the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits to the public".

As per the court’s order the parties will still appear in the court on Oct. 7 for a status hearing, inform the judge about the progress on the deal and settle on the date for the final fairness hearing.

History of the case
In a court hearing on Tuesday, authors and publishers had asked the court to delay the hearing as they needed more time to assuage concerns raised by critics over Google’s proposed book settlement.

Google has been scanning books from many major libraries in the United States, but in 2005 the search giant came under scanner as the Authors Guild, representing 8000 authors, filed a suit against Google alleging copyright violation.

Last October, the two parties reached a settlement according to which Google was given the right to digitize books that are still in copyright protection but out of print.

But the settlement has been criticized by a number of organizations, including Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo as being anti-competitive.

"The current settlement agreement raises significant issues, as demonstrated not only by the number of objections, but also by the fact that the objectors include countries, states, non-profit organizations and prominent authors and law professors. Clearly fair concerns have been raised," the judge wrote in a two-page order.

Google faces challenge from French publishers
Separately, French publishers and authors took Google to court alleging copyright violation, thus challenging the Google plan to digitize books.

France’s Seuil publishing house had filed a lawsuit on Google France and Google Inc. in June 2006, accusing the Internet search giant of forgery. Finally, on Thursday the case reached the courtroom.

"It's an anarchic way of brutally stockpiling French heritage," Yann Colin, the publishers' lawyer, told the court.

"Digitizing is reproduction," he added. "Once it is digitized, you can't undo it."

"Google is not a philanthropic group; it is a commercial firm, but that does not mean it is guilty of illegal acts," said Google’s lawyer Alexandra Neri who stated that publishers have no rights over digitized version of books.

France’s Publishers’ Association (SNE) estimates that approximately 100,000 copyrighted French books have already been scanned by Google.

The court expects to reach a decision by December this year.