Flash! Judge rejects Google Settlement

Flash! Judge rejects Google Settlement

I’ve written quite a bit about the Google Settlement.

The last time I wrote it about significantly as April 23, 2010, when the judge in the case was confirmed to the District Court.

We’ve basically been waiting since for somebody to rule on the Amended Settlement Agreement.

For a fairly extensive overview, I’d start with this previous post.  For now, I’ll give you a basic rundown.

Google was scanning books in library collections.  They even patented (very clever, in my opinion) technology to do it.  They basically claimed they had the right to do it under Section 107 of Title 17 (US copyright law).  That’s the Fair Use section.

The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers said that Google did not have the right to scan copyrighted books without permission of the rightsholders.

The AG and AAP sued.

In a settlement agreement (which was amended), the three parties worked out a future arrangement that allowed Google to scan books if it could not locate the rightsholder, sell the books, and if somebody eventually showed up and proved they owned the rights, pay them. 

I wasn’t in favor of the settlement.  I don’t think a single company should have the right to print unauthorized editions.  I do understand the value of “orphan book” legislation.  Orphan books are those under copyright protection, but which have no one to speak for them.  I’d be okay with Congressionally-passed orphan law legislation that carefully protected the rights of the authors.  I’d be less okay with it if it was retroactive, but I know it might be.

We’ve been waiting for something like a year for Judge Chin to rule on the fairness of the Amended Settlement Agreement.   Amazon, Microsoft, and individual authors had offered opinions to the court.  The Department of Justice had also expressed concerns about it.

Judge Chin filed his decision today:

http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=115

The key statement?

“The question presented is whether the ASA is fair, adequate, and reasonable. I conclude that it is not.

While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far.”

I essentially agree with that statement, although I know many people will be disappointed.

If the ASA had been approved, it would probably have meant more e-books would be available to us sooner.

We will probably have to wait for some other resolution to the orphan books question before we get those books.

However, I do think it wasn’t fair to authors who didn’t participate in the ASA.  Since it was an opt out situation, it committed people to an agreement in which they hadn’t had a part.

I do think, though, that even people who don’t like this decision will be happy to see that some decision has been released.  This now means that other approaches can be tried. 

For more informaton on the Google settlement, see this category.

What do you think?  Do you agree with Judge Chin?  Do you think Google was trying to exert rights that belonged to authors, or that they were serving the public good?  Feel free to let me know.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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2 Responses to “Flash! Judge rejects Google Settlement”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I’m not happy with his decision, but it’s emotional I fear — not rational. My upset is with current copyright law. The granting of rights is too long! Some of A. Conan Doyle’s works are still under copyright, and he died back in the thirties.

    To me the copyright should provide income to the creator during his lifetime — the royalties derived therefrom are the wages for his hire. After death rights should be curtailed to a very limited term. Rights held by corporations should be even more severely restricted — in fact in this e-age, I would write a law that says only authors can hold copyrights, and they cannot assign those rights to publishing corporations (if a corporation wants to deal with content creation services, let them be compensated in other ways — like maybe a “reverse royalty” — the rights always remain with the authors — they can agree to give a % of the sale price to a publisher for a fixed term only). After the author’s death the rights can be inherited perhaps, but their utility and longevity should be circumscribed, and in no case can the rights remain with a corporation (Golly, listen to me! And I’m a Republican :-)).

    I also find that patent protections for things like ethical drugs (where the regulatory approval process is necessarily lengthy) should be extended.

    So shorter terms for copyrights; longer terms for (some) patents — more ranting — sorry again :-)

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Here’s a place where you and I possibly disagree…it’s not the only one, but it’s more fun for debate when we do.

      I would lengthen copyright…if it was constitutional, I’d make it permanent. On that, I like Jack Valenti’s idea…”forever minus one day”. ;)

      That (along with supporting Digital Rights Management) is probably one of the ideas I’ve considered with which the most people disagree. :)

      http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/should-copyright-be-permanent/

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