Late last night the U.S. Department of Justice filed a 32-page “statement of interest” regarding the proposed Google Books settlement. In short, the DOJ recommends that:
This Court should reject the Proposed Settlement in its current form and encourage the parties to continue negotiations to modify it so as to comply with Rule 23 and the copyright and antitrust laws.
This is a really, really good brief. The Department of Justice appreciates both the potential and the dangers of the settlement. They’re clearly trying to lay the groundwork for a constructive way forward, while protecting copyright owners and competition.
The DoJ, speaking on behalf of the United States, has two broad areas of concern: fairness to copyright owner class members and protecting competition. It also strongly notes the public benefits from making out-of-print works more available, from creating accessible versions for the disabled, and from expanding distribution options for books. Their bottom line is that the settlement as it now stands is untenable, but that with modifications, it could be much better. It indicates that the parties are trying to negotiate (with each other and with the DoJ, it would appear) some of those changes, and the DoJ gives the court suggestions for how it ought to encourage the parties along….
Grimmelmann’s blog is a great source for detailed information about the Google Books controversy, with lots of useful links and interesting analysis.
The fairness hearing on the settlement is on October 7th. The court has received over 400 written filings in the case, and The Public Index has a list and links to them. These include objections, amicus briefs, letters of support, and letters raising concerns, from corporations, organizations, libraries, universities, publishers, individual authors, and even countries.
Here are a few other links I’ve been collecting over the past few weeks:
- Geoffrey Nunberg’s important essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars,” and his Language Log post, “Google Books: A Metadata Train Wreck”
- A Personanondata blog post estimating the number of “orphan works” at 580,388.
- The website of the Open Book Alliance, a coalition of librarians, legal scholars, authors, publishers, and technology companies opposed to the proposed Google Book Settlement but in favor of open and competitive mass book digitization.
- Witness statements from the September 10th House Judiciary hearing on “Competition and Commerce in Digital Books.”
- Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s response to critics of the settlement.
Here are links to my previous blog posts about the Google Books settlement.
- July 3, 2009: “…those lost books of the last century can be brought back to life and made searchable, discoverable, and citable…”
- April 30, 2009: Google and antitrust and censorship, oh my!
- April 5, 2009: The controversy over Google Book Search
- October 28, 2008: Great news about Google Book Search