Monday, September 21, 2009

Google Working to Revise Digital Books Settlement; New York Times, 9/21/09

Miguel Helft, New York Times; Google Working to Revise Digital Books Settlement:

"Legal experts say the new round of discussions, and the government’s intervention, are almost certain to delay an agreement that Google and the other parties were eager to see ratified quickly.

“The news out of this is that there are frantic negotiations going on in back rooms right now,” said James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School, which raised antitrust and other objections to the settlement. “The parties are scared enough to be talking seriously about changes, with each other and the government. The government is being the stern parent making them do it.”...

The Justice Department’s filing on Friday, echoing other critics, said that the settlement could give Google a virtually exclusive license to millions of out-of-print “orphan books,” whose rights holders were unknown or cannot be found, making it impossible for anyone else to build a comparable digital library; the interests of some class members, including authors of orphan works and foreign authors, might not have been adequately represented; and the efforts to notify class members about the settlement might have been inadequate.

But unlike some of the more strident opponents, who have argued that the settlement is so flawed that it must be rejected, the Justice Department said it hoped the accord could be fixed so that its benefits — most notable the unprecedented access to millions of out-of-print books it would offer — could be achieved. And it said the parties appeared willing to make changes to address such concerns."

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