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Update on the Google Book Settlement
by
Posted On July 2, 2009

By now, most people have probably heard that the key deadlines for the proposed Google Book Search settlement have been extended. U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin granted the request of a group of authors to extend by 4 months the May 5, 2009, deadline for authors and publishers to opt out or to object to the settlement. The judge set Sept. 4, 2009, as the new opt-out date. He also delayed the fairness hearing originally scheduled for June 11, 2009, until Oct. 7, 2009. All other deadlines and key dates remain unchanged. Claims need to be filed by Jan. 5, 2010, for rightsholders to be given payment for past scanning of their books, for scanning done prior to May 5, 2009. (For details of the settlement announcement, see our Nov. 3, 2008, NewsBreak, http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/NewsBreaks/The-Google-Book-Search-Settlement-The-Devils-in-the-Details-51429.asp.)

Public scrutiny and comments definitely accelerated as the May 5 deadline approached, so the extension wasn't really a surprise. (And don't be surprised if it happens again in August as the Sept. 4 date approaches.) Since the extension announcement, the settlement has been the focus of a number of public forums. There were meetings held at BookExpo America in late May, at the Association of Research Libraries meeting in May (audio of presentations are available at www.arl.org/resources/pubs/mmproceedings/154mm-proceedings.shtml#101), and at the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Annual meeting in mid-June. An NFAIS forum was also held at Drexel University in late June (the speakers' slides are available at www.nfais.org/events/event_details.cfm?id=56, and the archived webcast is available until July 10 for a fee at http://docs.google.com/View?id=ah94rvfrvdt9_518vhhgqrc2).

It is a complex settlement that isn't just about the rights of "rightsholders." It has some serious public policy issues as well. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has also opened inquiries into the antitrust implications of the settlement.

Google at SLA's Public Policy Update

The staff of SLA has been active in discussions with Google about the proposed settlement. As Doug Newcomb wrote in the SLA Public Policy Connections blog, "Along with excitement about the good that could arise from the settlement (see Google Book Search Will Expand Access), there are also fears that it could compromise basic library values such as equal access to information, privacy, and intellectual freedom." In May, Derek Slater, policy analyst with Google, met with staff at SLA headquarters to discuss and address various concerns that have been voiced by SLA members over the settlement. Following the meeting, Slater posted a long comment on the blog (http://slaconnections.typepad.com/public_policy_blog/2009/05/sla-meets-with-google-regarding-book-settlement.html).

As a result of the meeting, Google agreed to have Dan Clancy, engineering director, Google Book Search, speak at SLA's Public Policy Update during the annual meeting. Given the high interest on the topic in other forums, I expected an overflow crowd. However, given the nature of the conference, with numerous simultaneous sessions, business meetings, etc., the attendance was relatively small. I counted only about 40 folks in attendance. And the discussion was relatively tame and noncontroversial. Most of the time, Clancy explained the details of the settlement-the "snippet view," rightsholders' participation, the Books Rights Registry, and the three kinds of access (online consumer access to purchase, institutional access by subscription, and one public access terminal per public library). He also anticipated some questions, such as what happens if Google goes away. Partner libraries, such as the University of Michigan, Stanford University, the University of Texas, etc., will protect the public's interest and make books available, he said.

While librarians did ask about privacy (which isn't discussed in the settlement-Clancy says it needs to be between Google and users), trust issues (Google is working on its relationships), and orphan works, Clancy brought up pricing as a question that wasn't asked. He says it must satisfy two objectives: It must gain revenue for the rightsholders, and the books "have to be priced for broad distribution." He called it a "huge game changer" and an "equalizer." He says Google hopes that this expanded access will encourage people to actually go to the primary source.

On the issue of Google monopolizing access to orphan works under the agreement, Clancy claims that any organization that wants to get involved can. "Google tries to foster open competition. Having multiple players is good." However, this could be the real sticking point in the settlement moving along for approval. The week before the SLA meeting, word came that the DOJ had sent requests, called civil investigative demands (CIDs), to the various parties involved in the agreement, including Google, the Association of American Publishers, The Authors Guild, and individual publishers. It looks like the department is serious about the antitrust implications.

CCC Seminars on the Settlement

In his first public interview, Michael Healy-the man expected to become the executive director of the Book Rights Registry (BRR)-met with the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) to discuss the potential benefits of the proposed Google Book settlement. Healy, a former librarian, is currently the executive director of the nonprofit Book Industry Study Group and has been working with The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers on the establishment of the BRR. Development of the BRR was included as part of the proposed settlement agreement.

Healy offered this perspective on how the proposed settlement will ultimately help copyright holders. "The Book Rights Registry ... introduces into the environment ... an unprecedented degree of control to authors, publishers, and others, rights holders, on how their copyrights are exploited and distributed in this new digital world." A transcript of the interview is available at www.copyright.com/media/pdfs/Healyinterview.pdf. There's also a PDF file that outlines the benefits of the settlement for all parties (www.copyright.com/media/pdfs/Google-AAP_Outline_of_Benefits.pdf).

The CCC has established a special seminar series (www.copyright.com/ccc/viewPage.do?pageCode=pu18) that offers interviews, seminars, and presentations featuring leading experts who are well-versed on the settlement and its various components. Copyright expert and attorney Lois Wasoff has done several updates on what authors and publishers need to know. The sessions are available as pop-up audio files, downloadable MP3 files, and transcripts.

Interestingly, on the matter of the DOJ inquiry, Wasoff had this to say: "But I just want to emphasize here that antitrust laws are extremely complicated. The fact that the DOJ is looking into the settlement agreement does not mean that it violates antitrust laws, nor does it mean that the Department of Justice is likely to ultimately determine that it does violate antitrust laws. What I think is important here is that the fact of this investigation clearly may have an impact on the review and on the ultimate approval of the settlement agreement."

More Information

The American Library Association has an informational site about the settlement that includes the official documents, guides for libraries, and links to blog posts and articles (http://wo.ala.org/gbs).

For information from Google about the agreement, see http://books.google.com/googlebooks/agreement.

The official Google Book Settlement administration site is at http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders.

For an interesting legal discussion of some of the antitrust and competition policy issues raised by the settlement agreement, see "The Google Book Search Settlement: A New Orphan-Works Monopoly?" by Randal C. Picker. It can be downloaded at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1387582.


Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.



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