April 28, 2009 | By Fred von Lohmann

Google Book Search Settlement: Recent Developments

In recent weeks, there have been a number of important developments relating to the the Google Book Search settlement, currently awaiting approval before a court in New York. As we've written previously, this settlement would end the litigation that has pitting book publishers and authors against Google over Google's massive book scanning and indexing project.

  • The court has granted a four month extension in the proceedings. This extends the period of time during which class members (i.e., authors and publishers) can file objections until September 4, and sets the fairness hearing for October 7. This extension came after several parties asked the court for more time -- Google and the copyright owners asked for 2 months, a group of authors including the John Steinbeck estate asked for 4 months, and a group of scholarly authors led by UC Berkeley Law Prof. Pam Samuelson asked for 6 months.
  • The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice has ">reportedly opened an inquiry into the competitive impact of the settlement agreement. For a very readable introduction to the antitrust and competition issues raised, we recommend a paper by U. of Chicago Law School Prof. Randy Picker.
  • EFF has been working with a group of authors and publishers who are concerned about the failure of the settlement to contain any privacy protections for readers. The lack of privacy protections could scare readers away from controversial and noncontroversial subjects alike, hurting authors as well as readers. Reader privacy has strong protection offline; our goal is to ensure that these protections continue as books move online.
  • The court rejected a request from the Internet Archive to intervene in the case to raise the concerns of others who have undertaken book digitization efforts.
  • New York Law School Prof. James Grimmelmann has filed a letter with the court declaring an intention to file an amicus curiae brief that will address some of the public interest issues raised by the settlement (presumably along the lines described in his highly influential paper on the subject).

While recognizing that the settlement offers many benefits, we continue to be concerned that it also has several serious drawbacks. More on EFF's engagement with this issue in the weeks to come.

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