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Google Books Settlement Denied

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Mar 21 – Mar 27, 2011 Edition Google Books Settlement Denied

March 22, 2011–U.S. Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin has rejected the $125 million settlement negotiated between the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and Google, according to media reports.

In his opinion today, he wrote: “The question presented is whether the ASA is fair, adequate, and reasonable. I conclude that it is not.

While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far. It would permit this class action – which was brought against defendant Google Inc. (“GoogleI1) to challenge its scanning of books and display of “snippets” for on-line searching — to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors,rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.” Follow this link to read the complete decision.

Google managing counsel Hilary Ware had this statement: “This is clearly disappointing, but we’ll review the Court’s decision and consider our options. Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open-up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the US today. Regardless of the outcome, we’ll continue to work to make more of the world’s books discoverable online through Google Books and Google eBooks.”

The judge concluded: “the ASA is not fair, adequate, and reasonable. As the United States and other objectors have noted, many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA were converted from an ‘opt-out’ settlement to an ‘opt-in’ settlement.”

Macmillan CEO John Sargent had this statement on behalf of the publishers involved in the settlement: “[The decision] provides clear guidance to all parties as to what modifications are necessary for its approval. The publisher plaintiffs are prepared to enter into a narrower Settlement along those lines to take advantage of its groundbreaking opportunities. We hope the other parties will do so as well.”

Sargent concluded: “Publishers are prepared to modify the Settlement Agreement to gain approval. We plan to work together with Google, the Authors Guild and others to overcome the objections raised by the Court and promote the fundamental principle behind our lawsuit, that copyrighted content cannot be used without the permission of the owner, or outside the law.”

Authors Guild posted a short message: “We’ve just learned that Judge Chin has rejected our proposed settlement in our lawsuit against Google. In a 48-page opinion that lauds the many benefits of the settlement, the court has left the door open for a revised agreement. In his conclusion, Judge Chin says that ‘many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA [the Amended Settlement Agreement] were converted from an ‘opt-out’ settlement to an ‘opt-in’ settlement. I urge the parties to consider revising the ASA accordingly. We will have more on this for you soon.’”