Whoops! Google settlement officially sent back to drawing board. Oh, the joys of LACK of progress!

image“The judge overseeing Google's controversial agreement with American publishers to digitise millions of books has delayed a hearing into the $125m deal---effectively shutting down the settlement and sending it back to the drawing board.” – The Guardian (link added).

Details: Concerns such as copyright, anti-trust laws were responsible. Judge Denny Chin wants a solution but not without lots and lots of tweaking, it would appear. You can read some of his thoughts here. The judge delayed the planned Oct. 7 hearing.

image“The current settlement agreement,” wrote Chin, “raises significant issues, as demonstrated not only by the number of objections, but  also by the fact that the objectors include countries, states, nonprofit organizations, and prominent authors and law professors. Clearly, fair concerns have been raised.” Check out the Open Book Alliance, with members ranging from Amazon to small press groups and library organizations.

The joys of lack of progress

In some ways I’m actually rooting for more lack of progress. The problem isn’t just in the details. It’s in the fact that the U.S. and other countries need coherent information policies rather than linking the destinies of libraries and other institutions so closely to one corporation or group of them. Jeez. And to think that I own a very small speck of Google stock for retirement purposes. So much for loyalty.

Related: Google News roundup and New York Times coverage of the settlement case—plus Om Malik’s reflections on the Google email outage. Imagine a lasting Google Books outage, whether from hacking or other sources. Massive dependence on one company is not without its perils.

4 Comments on Whoops! Google settlement officially sent back to drawing board. Oh, the joys of LACK of progress!

  1. Um, David? The judge delayed it because Google and all the other parties asked him to. Seems that the Justice Department’s thumbs down was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and they’d all like to go back to the drawing board to hash out the settlement a little more.

    In fact, I think someone posted here about that a few days ago.

  2. But Chris, as I see it, this still was not good news for Google. You yourself noted that the thumbs-down from Justice was the camel’s-back-breaker. It’s clear the judge wants a solution. But it may not be quite as close to what Google wanted.

    As for the need for an update, things did happen yesterday. From the NYT: “As currently written, the controversial settlement between Google and groups representing publishers and authors is officially dead. On Thursday, a federal judge gave the parties time to negotiate a new deal that would address some of the many objections filed by various groups.”

    OK, maybe the operative word is “officially,” which I’ve added to the headline. Anyway, thanks for your own perspective. Great not to have a party line on this!

    Thanks,
    David

  3. The request for postponement originated from the two plaintiffs, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers. Google did not object to this request.

    If the settlement is approved, then the plaintiffs would receive 125 million dollars from Google.

    To Google, that 125 million US dollars is chump change. :-)

    But it’s not something that th AG and the AAP want to lose. A revised agreement will give them better chances.

    Google never imagined that the objections would be this vociferous and widespread. They can calm a good portion of the storm if they will give up their special rights to profit from orphan works.

    Michael Pastore
    50 Benefits of Ebooks

  4. Michael Pastore may well be right. When the news first broke that the AG and AAP has asked for a postponement, with Google merely not objecting, I thought that they were simply acting as surrogates of Google.

    But that doesn’t make much sense. Courts are inclined to accept any changes that all the parties in a dispute want. They’re less inclined to do so if one side in the dispute merely stands on the sideline. If Google knows it can’t win with the current settlement but might win with an adjusted one, it would have joined in asking for the postponement.

    I’ve begun to wonder if Google has concluded that a settlement altered to fit all these objections isn’t worth the bother. Displaying only the books of those who willingly opt-in is, from their perspective, too much for too little. Above all else, they wanted the forced-opt-in-if-you-don’t-opt-out. And they certainly don’t want German or French authors excluded, as those countries have demanded. How can they know if a book’s author isn’t a U.S. citizen?

    Don’t forget that this dispute doesn’t just pit two organizations against Google. There are also lawyers involved. Someone who knows the nitty-gritty of this case told me that Michael Boni, the lawyer who’s supposed to be serving the interests of the “author’s subclass,” is working all or mostly on contingency. That means that he and his colleagues will get little or nothing if this settlement isn’t approved and over $30 million if it is. That sort of money can easily corrupt.

    Also, never forget that the two plaintiffs’ original suit probably kept those whose copyright had been violated by Google’s posting of books online from filing their own lawsuits. Google may want to drop this settlement, but it would then face a host of new lawsuits for its prior deeds. If I remember right, a French publisher has already announced that it would be filing a lawsuit against Google.

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