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Google Books Settlement Is Delayed by Judge, Examined by DOJ for Antitrust Violations

By Kevin Fayle on April 29, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
Don't close the book on the Google Books settlement just yet.

A judge has delayed the opt-out date for the settlement of the copyright infringement class action until September 4 so that class members can give the agreement a more thorough review.

Separately, two people connected with the matter have leaked that the Department of Justice has begun examining the agreement for antitrust violations. 
This doesn't necessarily mean that the DOJ will launch a formal investigation or file a lawsuit, but even the slight hint of an antitrust action caused Google to pull out of an ad deal in discussion with Yahoo late last year.

The settlement agreement resulted from a class action by authors and publisher against the internet behemoth after Google began scanning books from libraries in order to make the works available in a web search.  The plaintiffs claimed that Google's actions violated their copyrights in the books.

Under the terms of the settlement, Google would pony up $125 million as seed money for a Books Rights Registry where authors and publishers could register works and receive royalties from subscriptions to the service or online sales of the books.

Several class members have raised objections to the terms of the agreement, however, arguing that the settlement grants Google an exclusive right over millions of books whose authors can't be identified, or "orphaned works."  The members also claimed that the exclusive license would allow Google to control the sale and distribution of out-of-print, but still-copyrighted, books whose authors would prefer to release them under a more open license. 

And, of course, they also claim the lack of competition would allow Google to charge whatever it wanted for the service to libraries and other institutions, which is where the DOJ's interest in the deal begins.

Google, obviously, thinks that the deal will increase access to both out-of-print books and those currently published, while fairly compensating authors and publishers. 

What do you think?  Will this settlement agreement open up a new era of literary availability?  Or is it just another step in Google's march to control the world's information at the expense of those who created it?

See Also:
Justice Dept. Opens Antitrust Inquiry Into Google Books Deal (NY Times)
Judge issues extension in Google Book Search settlement (CNET)
Google Book Search settlement will expand access (Google Public Policy Blog)
Google book settlement delayed, DoJ has antitrust concerns (Ars Technica)

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