News Brief

Google Book Settlement Put On Hold

The federal judge overseeing a controversial proposed settlement between Google and book authors and publishers has put the deal on hold for the parties to renegotiate.

"The current settlement agreement raises significant issues, as demonstrated not only by the number of objections, but also by the fact that objectors include countries, states, non-profit organizations, and prominent authors and law professors," wrote U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin in New York on Thursday.

But, he added, a deal would also "offer many benefits to society" and that the public would benefit by a "fair and reasonable settlement."

The proposed settlement between Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers would have resolved a four-year-old copyright infringement lawsuit by creating a new book registry and allowing Google to digitize and sell many books, including "orphan works" or books under copyright whose owners can't be found. Currently, anyone who publishes such books risks copyright liability -- which can run as high as $150,000 per infringement. Some outside organizations said that the orphan works provisions would give Google an advantage over other potential publishers, who would still face liability for printing orphan works.

The Department of Justice was among those expressing concerns about the deal. "The central difficulty that the proposed settlement seeks to overcome -- the inaccessibility of many works due to the lack of clarity about copyright ownership and copyright status -- is a matter of public, not merely private, concern," the government wrote in a letter to the court.

Chin scheduled a status conference for Oct. 7 and ordered Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers to attend.

--Wendy Davis
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