Category Archives: Google Book Settlement

Breaking news: Judge Chin rejects the Google Books Settlement

James Grimmelmann has just reported that Judge Denny Chin has rejected the Google Books Settlement. (For background, see my previous posts on the Google Books case or The Public Index website.) The full opinion is here (PDF). I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but below are a couple of excerpts from the beginning and the end of the opinion:

The question presented is whether the ASA [Amended Settlement Agreement] is fair, adequate, and reasonable. I conclude that it is not.

While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far. It would permit this class action– which was brought against defendant Google Inc. to challenge its scanning of books and display of “snippets” for on-line searching– to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.

Accordingly, and for the reasons more fully discussed below, the motion for final approval of the ASA is denied….

In the end, I conclude that the ASA is not fair, adequate, 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 from an “opt-out” settlement to an “opt-in” settlement…. I urge the parties to consider revising the ASA accordingly.

I recommend checking Grimmelmann’s blog (The Laboratorium) for his analysis and information about the case.

Update: Here’s the link to Grimmelmann’s new post, “Inside Judge Chin’s Opinion.” More links at The Public Index Blog and TeleRead. Publishers Weekly has an interesting article about what could happen next and the obstacles in the way of revising the settlement.

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The Google Book Settlement hearing is over, and now we wait

The Google Book Settlement fairness hearing was held yesterday (February 18th). Here are some recaps of what happened:

Now it’s up to Judge Denny Chin to decide the fate of the Google Book Settlement.

For background on the GBS controversy, see my previous posts on the subject, which contain lots of links and other information.

That’s enough blogging for today– spring has come very early to Seattle, so I’m going outside to play in the sunshine.

Update, 2/20/10:  Today James Grimmelmann posted his long, detailed, and very interesting first-person report on the fairness hearing, in which he summarizes the arguments of each speaker and the questions Judge Chin asked in response.  Grimmelmann notes, “Yesterday’s fairness hearing was fascinating. Very little happened to substantively change where the case is going, but as a snapshot of the players and their positions, it was very revealing.”

Breaking news: Hachette joins Macmillan, Justice Dept. still doesn’t like the Google Book Settlement

Two pieces of breaking news tonight:

Hachette joins Macmillan

David Young, the CEO of Hachette Book Group, announced that Hachette is adopting the agency model for ebook pricing. Here’s the GalleyCat article, which includes the text of Young’s letter.

For those keeping score, there are six major U.S. publishers: Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Random House. Five of the six (all except Random House) made a deal with Apple to sell their ebooks on the iPad using the agency model. So now that Macmillan and Hachette have publicly committed to adopting the agency model for all of their ebooks (and with HarperCollins likely to as well, based on statements Rupert Murdoch made yesterday), it’s probably only a matter of time before the rest join in. But when will Amazon stop boycotting Macmillan books?

The Justice Department doesn’t like the amended Google Book Settlement, says “class certification, copyright and antitrust issues remain”

The Department of Justice submitted its views to the court on the amended Google Book Settlement. (The fairness hearing is on February 18th.)

James Grimmelmann summarizes:

The United States has filed a new Statement of Interest. The tone is balanced, but the conclusion is clear: the Department of Justice thinks the settlement is beyond the court’s authority and still problematic on antitrust grounds. It’s a careful, detailed brief, that raises fundamental objections to the settlement. These issues will not be resolved with quick patches, even if the parties were in the mood to revise and resubmit a second time.

The battle has been truly joined.

Here’s an excerpt from the press release issued by the Department of Justice:

The Department of Justice today advised the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that despite the substantial progress reflected in the proposed amended settlement agreement in The Authors Guild Inc. et al. v. Google Inc., class certification, copyright and antitrust issues remain. The department also said that the United States remains committed to working with the parties on issues concerning the scope and content of the settlement…

In its statement of interest filed with the court today, the department stated, “Although the United States believes the parties have approached this effort in good faith and the amended settlement agreement is more circumscribed in its sweep than the original proposed settlement, the amended settlement agreement suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation.”

Here’s the link to the Justice Department’s full “Statement of Interest of the United States of America.”

Here’s the New York Times article about it, noting: “While the Justice Department did not explicitly urge the court to reject the deal, as it had the previous version, its opposition on copyright, class action and antitrust grounds represented a further setback for Google and the other parties to the deal.”

For more on the Google Book Settlement, see my earlier posts.

And now for something completely different…

Today is day 7 of Amazon’s boycott of Macmillan print books and ebooks. John Scalzi summarizes the current state of affairs in a very entertaining way in his new blog post, “A Quick Interview of Me, By Me, To Catch Up With Everything Amazon.” And Matt and I spotted this today in a full-page ad in the New York Times for Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto:  “Available at booksellers everywhere except Amazon.”

I realize that not all of my readers are as obsessed with this subject as I am, so I will give you a break and blog about some other things today:

Google Book Settlement

The Google Book Settlement fairness hearing will finally be held on February 18th, and the deadline to opt out or object passed on January 28th. James Grimmelmann has been posting lots of great links about the GBS on his Laboratorium blog:

Clarion and Clarion West Writers Workshop deadlines approaching

Applications are due by March 1st for the 2010 Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, “an intensive six-week workshop for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy.” The 2010 workshop will run from June 20th to July 30th, and the instructors are Michael Bishop, Maureen McHugh, Nnedi Okorafor, Graham Joyce, Ellen Datlow, and Ian McDonald. See the Clarion West website for more information.

Also due by March 1st are applications for the 2010 Clarion Writers’ Workshop at UC San Diego, which runs from June 27th to August 7th. The 2010 instructors are Delia Sherman, George R.R. Martin, Dale Bailey, Samuel R. Delany, Jeff VanderMeer, and Ann VanderMeer.

Library budget cuts

Small Beer Press

Kelly Link and Gavin Grant’s Small Beer Press will bring back into print two books by writers Matt and I really like– Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life in October 2010, and Kelley Eskridge’s Solitaire in January 2011. They are joining a fine group of other writers published by Small Beer Press, including John Crowley, Elizabeth Hand, Geoff Ryman, Sean Stewart, and Kelly Link, among others.

And finally…

Introducing the iCodex:

Today, St. Stephen of Jobs announced the newest creation from the monks at Abbey Apple: the iCodex, which he believes will revolutionize the way people work and play…

With the iCodex, people can now store multiple items in one, easy-to-use package. A user could, for example, enjoy both cooking recipes and psalms, or mappa mundi and instructions on marital relations. Since the iCodex’s pages are bound together in an easy-to-turn format, things stored at the end of an iCodex are as easy to access as the beginning…

Excitement for the product could be felt all over the literate world. At the Library of Google, scribes were busy transferring hundreds of years of scrolls onto codices. “We hope to copy the entire history of human writing into codex form within the next few decades,” said Larry the Page, Google’s founder….

Go read the whole thing on Tom Elrod’s Wordism blog.

Google Book Deal 2.0

Late last night the revised Google Book settlement was filed with the court.

So what’s changed? From the New York Times:

The revisions to the settlement primarily address the handling of so-called orphan works, the millions of books whose rights holders are unknown or cannot be found. The changes call for the appointment of an independent fiduciary, or trustee, who will be solely responsible for decisions regarding orphan works.

The trustee, with Congressional approval, can grant licenses to other companies who also want to sell these books, and will oversee the pool of unclaimed funds that they generate. If the money goes unclaimed for 10 years, according to the revised settlement, it will go to philanthropy and to an effort to locate rights holders. In the original settlement, unclaimed funds reverted to known rights holders after five years.

The changes also restrict the Google catalog to books published in the United States, Britain, Australia or Canada. That move is intended to resolve objections from the French and German governments, which complained that the settlement did not abide by copyright law in those countries.

The revised settlement could make it easier for other companies to compete with Google in offering their own digitized versions of older library books because it drops a provision that was widely interpreted as ensuring that no other company could get a better deal with authors and publishers than the one Google had struck.

Google’s blog post about the revised settlement has links to their summary of the changes and FAQ.

James Grimmelman has a detailed analysis of the revised settlement and notes: “My instant reaction is that it makes a number of meaningful, if modest, improvements, but leaves unaddressed the central issue that led me to worry about the settlement in the first place.”

The Open Book Alliance is, of course, unhappy with the revised settlement:

Open Book Alliance co-chair Peter Brantley said, “Our initial review of the new proposal tells us that Google and its partners are performing a sleight of hand; fundamentally, this settlement remains a set-piece designed to serve the private commercial interests of Google and its partners. None of the proposed changes appear to address the fundamental flaws illuminated by the Department of Justice and other critics that impact public interest. By performing surgical nip and tuck, Google, the AAP, and the AG are attempting to distract people from their continued efforts to establish a monopoly over digital content access and distribution; usurp Congress’s role in setting copyright policy; lock writers into their unsought registry, stripping them of their individual contract rights; put library budgets and patron privacy at risk; and establish a dangerous precedent by abusing the class action process.”

Resource Shelf has an excellent  link roundup and press review here.

Judge Denny Chin will soon announce the timeline for the notice period, objection hearing, and final fairness hearing.

I’m sure the debate will rage across the blogosphere in the days and weeks to come.

Update, 11/15: James Grimmelman has posted the proposed GBS schedule on his Laboratorium blog:

* Notice begins: Monday, December 14, 2009.

* Opt-out/objection/amicus deadline: Thursday, January 28, 2010 (45 days later).

* DOJ files its response: Thursday, February 4, 2010 (7 days later).

* Plaintiffs move for final approval: Thursday, February 11, 2010 (7 days later).

* Final fairness hearing: Thursday, February 18, 2010 (7 days later).

Link salad

Sorry for the lack of blogging, but I’ve been unusually busy of late. Here’s a round-up of some of the links I’ve collected over the past week or two.

Sergey Brin’s op-ed in the New York Times defending the Google Books settlement, “A Library to Last Forever”:

Today, if you want to access a typical out-of-print book, you have only one choice — fly to one of a handful of leading libraries in the country and hope to find it in the stacks.

I laughed out loud when I read this. As far as I know, all libraries have online catalogues so you can check their holdings remotely, and many have interlibrary loan programs. And has this man never heard of a used bookstore? You can even search for millions of out-of-print books on sites like Bookfinder, buy them online and have them mailed to your home.

Here’s Pamela Samuelson’s response in The Huffington Post, “Google Books in Not a Library.”

And Chris Thompson’s response in Slate, “Sergey Brin Blows Smoke Up Your Ass.”

And the Open Book Alliance’s response.

Chris Thompson’s East Bay Express article “The Case Against Google Books,” about Peter Brantley, Pamela Samuelson, and Geoff Nunberg and their opposition to the Google Books settlement.

Lewis Hyde’s New York Times Book Review essay on orphan works: “There are millions of them out there, and they are gumming up the world of publishing…. [When] Carnegie Mellon University tried to digitize a collection of out-of-print books, one of every five turned out to be orphaned. When Cornell tried to post a collection of agricultural monographs online, half were orphans. The United States Holocaust Museum owns millions of pages of archival documents that it can neither publish nor digitize.”

Sam Roberts’ New York Times article about the Leon Levy Foundation’s grants to institutions to “preserve and digitize their archival collections and to make them available online to scholars and to the public.” This could uncover many historical treasures that have been locked away in uncatalogued archives.

Michael Ruane’s Washington Post article, “WWII GI Returns Books Taken from Germany Six Decades Ago,” with “anti-Nazi librarians hiding their books.”

Motoko Rich’s New York Times article about library ebooks, in which “some publishers worry that the convenience of borrowing books electronically could ultimately cut into sales of print editions.”

Survival of the Book’s post on the Entertainment Weekly Q&A with Dacre Stoker about the Dracula sequel: “We grew up thinking, Isn’t it too bad that the copyright was lost in the 1930s?… When [the vampire craze] was just beginning to pick up, we said, ‘You know what? We better get this thing done.'”

From Letters of Note, a 1777 Revolutionary War “masked letter.”

And yes, I know I missed Banned Books Week, but you can still read my post from last year, “Girls lean back everywhere….”

Google Books settlement being revised, plaintiffs want October 7th hearing rescheduled

Breaking news from James Grimmelmann’s blog:

The author and publisher plaintiffs filed a motion to adjourn the [October 7th Google Books settlement] fairness hearing, together with a short supporting memorandum. Google does not oppose the motion. The executive summary:

* The parties are renegotiating the settlement (with each other and the DOJ).

* The issues are too complex to present a revised settlement by October 7.

* They’ve requested a status conference for November 6 to discuss a future schedule, so they may have a revised settlement by then.

* The parties don’t yet know whether the changes will require a renotice.

This is clearly the result of the Department of Justice’s recommendation that the settlement be rejected by the court and renegotiated. (See my previous blog post for more information and links.)

Update: Reaction from the Open Book Alliance:

This is a huge victory for the many people and organizations who raised significant concerns that this settlement did not serve the public interest, stifled innovation, and restricted competition. It’s also an enormous loss for Google, which had been saying for months that no changes were necessary to the settlement. Now, that settlement, as we know it, is dead.