Court Rejects Google’s Deal to Rule Book World

Mar 23, 2011
George Anderson

Google has a bit more work to do before it rules the digital
book world.

U.S. Circuit Court judge Denny Chin has struck down a $125 million
settlement the company had reached with the Authors Guild, the Association
of American Publishers and others over concerns it “would grant Google
significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of copyright
owners” and
give it a “significant
advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying
of copyrighted works without permission.”

As widely reported, the deal
had a long list of opponents, including Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo! as well as
the U.S., French and German governments.

The Justice Department, Reuters reported,
was concerned about rights granted to Google for so-called “orphan works.” The
deal gave Google the right to market works where copyrights were in place but
the holder could not be found.

As part of the settlement with the authors and
publishing groups, Bloomberg
reported, Google would publish “orphan works” and include
links to various other sites such as and Barnes & Noble for

“This is clearly disappointing, but we’ll review the court’s decision
and consider our options,” said Hilary Ware, managing counsel for Google,
in an emailed statement. “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 U.S. today.”

The New York Times reported that Google has already digitized around
15 million books whose copyright protection has expired.

Paul Aiken, executive
director of the Authors Guild, told the Times that
it was not clear what would happen next. “The judge did expressly leave
the door open for a revised settlement,” he said.

Discussion Questions: Do you agree with Judge Chin’s decision striking down Google’s deal to digitize millions of “orphan works” book titles? What do you think is likely to happen next and what will it mean for others competing with Google in the digital book space?

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4 Comments on "Court Rejects Google’s Deal to Rule Book World"

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Ryan Mathews
10 years 1 month ago

For now at least whatever happens to Google is what will happen in the digital book space.

It may be that in the post-print world copyrights will be all be unenforceable on a title basis and that, in the end, aggregators like Google will be the largest beneficiaries.

As an author of three books, I’m happy to see any rulings that protect original copyright holders but the reality is such protection may not be viable in the future.

Cathy Hotka
10 years 1 month ago

The Google settlement was outrageous!…it ceded to Google all rights to these works, cutting out any other companies that might want to digitize these works (talk about first mover advantage!).

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
10 years 1 month ago

Anyone ever heard of “The Gutenberg Project”? Project Gutenberg was started by Michael Hart in 1971 with the digitization of the United States Declaration of Independence. Hart, a student at the University of Illinois, obtained access to a Xerox Sigma V mainframe computer in the university’s Materials Research Lab. Through friendly operators, he received an account with a virtually unlimited amount of computer time; its value at that time has since been variously estimated at between $100,000 and $100,000,000. Hart has said he wanted to “give back” this gift by doing something that could be considered to be of great value. His initial goal was to make the 10,000 most consulted books available to the public at little or no charge, and to do so by the end of the 20th century.

This particular computer was one of the 15 nodes on the computer network that would become the Internet.

Who needs Google?

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
10 years 1 month ago

Protecting copyrights is important to me as an author of five books. However, I agree with Ryan–copyrights are likely to disappear or be significantly modified in the future. I do think it is a good that there is more time to consider the issues and ramifications of decisions.


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