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Google supports bill to ensure orphan works available to competitors

oogle welcomes legislation that would expand the rights it would obtain under the Google Books Settlement to all players, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers announced at the start of committee hearings on the settlement.
Written by Richard Koman, Contributor on

Update: Google's prepared testimony (PDF) | Amazon's prepared remarks

Google welcomes legislation that would expand the rights it would obtain under the Google Books Settlement to all players, House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers announced at the start of committee hearings on the settlement. Watch the hearings (Real).

The Google Books Settlement represents the greatest benefit to publishing since the Gutenberg press. My concern is that Google would have exclusive rights to orphan works. But this can be fixed by legislation. And I have indications from Google that they would support this.

That statement gives fair notice that the Committee will actually do something -- pass the legislation that would remove most of the antitrust concerns the settlement raises. Or at least whatever legislation Google, Microsoft and Amazon can agree on. In her opening statment, Silicon Valley Rep. Zoe Lofgren said this:

The future of literacy depends on how we get right digitizing material. We wouldn't be here if the Congress had dealt with the orphan works problem. Potentially the majority of all written works are unavailable to the public. That's a problem. We worked hard on passing legislation and we failed.

We're here today because somebody in the private sector decided to seek forgiveness instead of permission. I'm mindful that there are competitors who seek a business advantage out of a dispute. We need to separate out business squabbling from legal issues.

She also took the opportunity to lambaste the Copyright Office for delivering testimony late. "It's just scandalous really; outrageous," she said.

Ranking minority member Lamar Smith gave a balanced recitation of the benefits and criticism.

After the opening comments, the committee heard five-minute statements from the witnesses.

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