Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Judge Rejects Google’s Deal to Digitize Books By MIGUEL HELFT

 SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge rejected Google’s $125 million class-action settlement with authors and publishers, delivering a blow to the company’s ambitious plan to build the world’s largest digital library and bookstore.

                                                                                                              Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
The court’s decision throws into legal limbo one of Google’s most ambitious projects: a plan to digitize millions of books from libraries, such as this rare, antique Bible.

 Judge Denny Chin of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York said that the settlement went too far in granting Google rights to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners, and that it was “not fair, adequate and reasonable.”  
 The court’s decision throws into legal limbo one of Google’s most ambitious projects: a plan to digitize millions of books from libraries.
 The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers sued Google in 2005 over its digitizing plans. After two years of painstaking negotiations, the authors and publishers devised with Google a sweeping settlement that would have helped to bring much of the publishing industry into the digital age.
 The deal turned Google, the authors and the publishers into allies who defended the deal against an increasingly vocal chorus of opponents that included academics, copyright experts, the Justice Department and foreign governments.
 “This is clearly disappointing,” Hilary Ware, managing counsel at Google, said in a statement. “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 U.S. today.”
 The deal would have allowed Google to make millions of out-of-print books broadly available online and to sell access to them, while giving authors and publishers new ways to earn money from digital copies of their works. Yet the deal faced a tidal wave of opposition from Google rivals like Amazon and Microsoft, as well as some academics, authors, legal scholars, states and foreign governments. The Justice Department opposed the deal, fearing that it would give Google a monopoly over millions of so-called orphan works, books whose right holders are unknown or cannot be found.
 In an interview, Paul Aiken, the executive director of the Authors Guild, said it was too early to tell what the next step would be. “The judge did expressly leave the door open for a revised settlement,” he said.
 Indeed, Judge Chin suggested that substantial objections would be eliminated if the settlement applied only to books whose authors or copyright owners would “opt-in” to its terms. That would leave millions of orphan works out of the agreement, and potentially, out of Google’s digital library.

Julie Bosman and Claire Cain Miller contributed reporting.

© 2011nytimes.com

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