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.
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.”
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).