Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Momentum Shifts Against Google in Old Books Controversy

BNET media relates several new developments in the class action suit between Google and some authors over who will control publishing rights of millions of out-of-print books.

One of the leading legal experts on issues of intellectual property rights, UC Berkeley Professor Pamela Samuelson has written a powerful argument to the presiding judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin. Judge Chin himself has also announced that he is extending the deadline for those wishing to oppose the settlement by four months, from May 4 to September 4.

The Justice Department is checking out the antitrust implications of the arrangements made between Google and groups representing publishers and authors, where it would be possible for millions more books to be included in Google Book Search unless the copyright holders take steps to opt out.
A larger issue to those who were not party to the deal concerns the large number of "orphan works", those whose rights holders cannot be identified.
“The proposed settlement of this lawsuit is a privately negotiated compulsory license primarily designed to monetize millions of orphan works,” wrote Professor Samuelson. “[It] would give Google a monopoly on the largest digital library of books in the world. It and BRR, which will also be a monopoly, will have considerable freedom to set prices and terms and conditions for Book Search’s commercial services. … Google will also be the only service lawfully able to sell orphan books and monetize them through subscriptions.”

See more on this story at Good Morning Silicon Valley, Los Angeles Times, and Silicon Beat.