Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Google book deal killed

The NY Times reports:
Google’s ambition to create the world’s largest digital library and bookstore has run into the reality of a 300-year-old legal concept: copyright.

The company’s plan to digitize every book ever published and make them widely available was derailed on Tuesday when a federal judge in New York rejected a sweeping $125 million legal settlement the company had worked out with groups representing authors and publishers.

Judge Denny Chin said the legal settlement with publishers and authors would have granted Google a “de facto monopoly.”
It was always clear that an opt-in settlement would be legal. The class action lawsuit against Google was based on the premise of protecting the interests of those who do not want to opt-in. The phony settlement was an opt-out deal. Such a settlement cannot possibly be in the interests of the class. The judge was right to kill this deal.

Google is right that copyright is broken in that orphan works get effectively buried for a century. But Congress needs to fix it, and not some sleazy Google deal with some crooked lawyers.

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