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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

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Google Book Search Settlement Rejected By Court

google-books-featuredRemember the Google Book (Class Action) Settlement? It’s been some time since there’s been any news. After many months of waiting, the court handed down its decision today — a defeat for Google and those who supported the settlement.

The Authors Guild brought a class action lawsuit against Google in 2005 for “massive” copyright infringement over its book scanning project. The parties worked out a settlement  in 2008 and had sought to finalize that settlement after many rounds of hearings. The settlement called for writers who objected to opt-out or be bound by its terms.

That opt-out dimension of the settlement seemed to be most disturbing to the Judge, Dennis Chin. He found that the proposed settlement terms were not “fair, adequate, and reasonable.” Chin said the following in his order:

In the end, I conclude that the ASA is not fair, 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 an “opt-out” to an “opt-in” settlement.

I urge the parties to consider revising the ASA accordingly. The motion for final approval of the ASA is denied, without prejudice to renewal in the event the parties negotiate a revised settlement agreement.

Google issued the following statement by Hilary Ware, Managing Counsel, Google:

“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 Authors Guild, which was seeking to have the settlement finalized along with Google, issued the following statement:

“Although this Alexandria of out-of-print books appears lost at the moment,” said Authors Guild President Scott Turow, “we’ll be studying Judge Chin’s decision and plan on talking to the publishers and Google with the hope that we can arrive at a settlement within the court’s parameters that makes sense for all parties.”

“Regardless of the outcome of our discussions with publishers and Google, opening up far greater access to out-of-print books through new technologies that create new markets is an idea whose time has come,” said Mr.Turow. “Readers want access to these unavailable works, and authors need every market they can get. There has to be a way to make this happen. It’s a top priority for the Authors Guild.”

My understanding is that Google effectively cannot appeal this settlement rejection. It would need to present a new settlement proposal to the court. The judge has offered Google and the litigants that opportunity.

(gavel image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)


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