Judge shoots down Google Book Settlement: Author opt-in needed

A Federal appeals judge shot down Google's settlement with authors and publishers and plans to put millions of books online. Authors should opt-in to Google's program not be forced to opt-out.

A Federal appeals judge shot down Google's settlement with authors and publishers and plans to put millions of books online.

However, Denny Chin, a judge on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, had an easy fix: Make the settlement revolve around authors opting into the Google program.

The Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers settled with Google in 2008 instead of enduring a long lawsuit. Under that deal, Google paid $125 million and agreed to establish a registry so authors and publishers can get paid. Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon opposed the Google settlement.

According to the Chin ruling, posted by CNet News, Google has digitized 12 million books since 2004. This drawn out lawsuit started because Google began mass scanning out-of-print, but still in copyright books.

In the ruling, Chin wrote:

While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the Amended Settlement Agreement would simply go too far. It would permit this class action - - which was brought against defendant Google Inc. ("GoogleI1)to challenge its scanning of books and display of "snippets" for on-line searching - - to implement a forward-looking business arrangement books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.

He continued:

The benefits of Google's book project are many. Books will become more accessible. Libraries, schools, researchers, and disadvantaged populations will gain access to far more books. Digitization will facilitate the conversion of books to Braille and audio formats, increasing access for individuals with disabilities. Authors and publishers will benefit as well, as new audiences will be generated and new sources of income created. Older books -- particularly out-of-print books, many of which are falling apart buried in library stacks -- will be preserved and given new life. Millions of the books scanned by Google, however, were still under copyright, and Google did not obtain copyright permission to scan the books.

The kicker: These concerns will go away if Google goes with an opt-in standard for authors and publishers.

Google's Hilary Ware, managing counsel, said:

"This is clearly disappointing, but we'll review the Court's decision and consider our options. Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open-up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the US today. Regardless of the outcome, we'll continue to work to make more of the world's books discoverable online through Google Books and Google eBooks."

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