November 19 – November 26, 2009 Edition

Justice Department Continues to Probe Google Settlement

The revised Google settlement submitted to Court this past Friday is not likely to end the fight over the case, according to The Wall Street Journal (November 16, 2009, p. B1).

The most recent revisions would allow Google to distribute millions of digital books online, but would cut the number of works covered by the settlement by at least half by removing millions of foreign titles.

At issue, however, is whether it is fair to let Google distribute books whose legal rights owners haven’t been identified-called orphan works.

The Justice Department had asked U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin to delay a hearing until lawyers for Google, Inc., the Association of American Publishers and Authors Guild, who designed the settlement, addressed its concerns. According to The Journal, the Justice Department remains concerned over the fact that the settlement gives Google immunity from lawsuits related to orphan works, a practice that may be anticompetitive. The department is expected to file its reaction to the modified agreement by early next year.

The Justice Department told The Journal that the department is reviewing the revisions and that its investigation into the settlement is “on-going.”

The new settlement keeps the same structure, but makes a number of changes, including adding more pricing options to address concerns about potential price fixing, and clarifying what sort of services Google can offer related to digital books.

Judge Chin is expected this week to set a timetable for objections to the settlement’s modifications.