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The Google Book Settlement: More Details And Changes

November 16, 2009

This comes from The New York Times.

Terms Of Digital Book Deal With Google Revised By Brad Stone And Miguel Helft

Denny Chin

Denny Chin, a United States District Court judge, is overseeing the Google books case.

Google and groups representing book publishers and authors filed a modified version of their controversial books settlement with a federal court on Friday. The changes would pave the way for other companies to license Google’s vast digital collection of copyrighted out-of-print books, and might resolve its conflicts with European governments.

The settlement, of a 2005 lawsuit over Google’s ambitious plan to digitize books from major American libraries, outlined a plan to create a comprehensive database of in-print and out-of-print works. But the original agreement, primarily between Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, drew much criticism.

The Justice Department and others said Google was potentially violating copyright law, setting itself up to unfairly control access to electronic versions of older books and depriving authors and their heirs of proper compensation.

The revisions to the settlement primarily address the handling of so-called orphan works, the millions of books whose rights holders are unknown or cannot be found. The changes call for the appointment of an independent fiduciary, or trustee, who will be solely responsible for decisions regarding orphan works.

The trustee, with Congressional approval, can grant licenses to other companies who also want to sell these books, and will oversee the pool of unclaimed funds that they generate. If the money goes unclaimed for 10 years, according to the revised settlement, it will go to philanthropy and to an effort to locate rights holders.

The changes also restrict the Google catalog to books published in the United States, Britain, Australia or Canada. That move is intended to resolve objections from the French and German governments, which complained that the settlement did not abide by copyright law in those countries.

The revised settlement could make it easier for other companies to compete with Google in offering their own digitized versions of older library books because it drops a provision that was widely interpreted as ensuring that no other company could get a better deal with authors and publishers than the one Google had struck.

Read the rest here.

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