Google gets more time on digital library plan

2011-06-02 08:50

New York – Google has yet to agree with authors and publishers on a legal plan to create the world’s largest digital library, and a federal judge who struck down an earlier accord gave it another seven weeks to try.

“The parties are still considering what options are available, and everything is on the table,’’ attorney Bruce Keller, who represents publishers in the settlement, said at a court hearing in New York.

Citing antitrust and copyright concerns, Judge Denny Chin rejected on March 22 a $125 million (R853 million) settlement, saying it went “too far’’ in allowing Google to exploit digitised copyrighted works by selling subscriptions to them online and engage in “wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission”.

Google, which runs the world’s largest internet search engine, had scanned about 12 million books, saying it would ease access to materials for readers and researcher.

Chin set a July 19 status conference in the case after Keller asked for 60 additional days to negotiate.

“The issues are complicated,’’ the judge said.

The earlier settlement would have resolved a 2005 lawsuit brought by The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over Google’s book-scanning.

Google would have been allowed to sell online access to millions of out-of-print books.

The company would have created a registry of books and paid $125 million to people whose copyrighted books had been scanned and to locate authors of scanned books who had not come forward.

But rivals such as Amazon.com and Microsoft, as well as a variety of academics and authors, complained the settlement gave Google too much power, or else violated antitrust and copyright law.

The Justice Department also said the agreement appeared to violate the law. Like others, it expressed concern that Google could win exclusive rights to millions of “orphan’’ works, where the owners of the rights could not be located.

Chin has urged Google, authors and publishers to amend the settlement to include only books whose copyright owners agreed to the arrangement, rather than require authors to “opt out’’.

After yesterday’s hearing, Google said in a statement it was exploring “a number of options’’ to address Chin’s concerns, while Tom Allen, chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, said litigation would resume if talks failed.

Amazon sells the Kindle digital reader, which is not compatible with Google’s library. Sony, which makes a compatible e-reader, favoured the agreement.

Google launched an electronic bookstore with 3 million books in December after receiving permission from publishers.

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