Magazine article American Libraries

Revised Google Books Settlement Tackles Foreign Titles, Orphans

Magazine article American Libraries

Revised Google Books Settlement Tackles Foreign Titles, Orphans

Article excerpt

Concerned parties have until January 28 to file objections and amicus briefs to a revised version of a proposed settlement of lawsuits challenging Google's Book Search project. The amended settlement was filed by Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers shortly before a midnight deadline on November 13.

A proposed timetable set out in the settlement filing sets a February 4 deadline for the Justice Department's response; the final fairness hearing will take place February 18.

The original deal, reached in October 2008, drew criticism over antitrust concerns and treatment of orphan works and foreign publications (AL, Dec. 2008, p. 30), and an unfavorable September 18 filing by the Justice Department prompted the parties to modify the agreement.

In response to concerns from foreign rightsholders, the amended settlement limits the agreement to books that were either registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or published in the United Kingdom, Australia, or Canada. It also addresses the treatment of orphan works, directing a portion of the revenue generated from unclaimed works to be used to locate rightsholders and calling for the appointment of an independent fiduciary who would be responsible for decisions regarding orphan works. In addition, it allows for Creative Commons licensing, permitting rightsholders to let their works be distributed at no cost.

The amended agreement permits Google to increase the number of terminals that can be used at public libraries to access the database of books: previously, only one terminal per library building was allowed. On her blog, librarian Karen Coyle lamented that the revision offers "no information on whether or how public libraries could subscribe in a way that would allow them to fully serve their communities."

In a statement, the parties noted that the changes, made after a review of submissions filed with the court overseeing the deal, including the one from the Justice Department, "were developed to address many of these concerns, while preserving the core benefits of the agreement."

The removal of foreign books is the most significant change to the agreement: The Wall Street Journal estimated November 16 that the elimination of millions of foreign titles would reduce the number of works covered by the settlement by at least half. …

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