Google Books settlement to be delayed after US Government objects

Author and publisher groups in the US have requested a delay for the date of the Google Books settlement hearing following objections from various groups including the US Department of Justice.

The US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have requested the postponement in order to modify the proposed settlement, which has been criticised by corporate giants Microsoft and Amazon for effectively re-writing copyright laws.

The settlement would see Google scan and publish millions of books online as part of a digital book registry, while authors and publishers would be given revenue from sales.

However, the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers wrote to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York requesting more time to amend the agreement in order to take on some of the Department’s recommendations.

“The parties are committed to rapidly advancing the discussions with the DOJ. Nevertheless, it is clear that the complex issues raised preclude submission of an amended settlement agreement by October 7.”

“The interests of class members and of judicial economy will not be well served by holding a hearing on the present settlement agreement.”

The Department of Justice released its official reaction to the settlement last week, in which it opposed the plan due to fears authors of orphan works would not be properly compensated for their work.

The department did not totally reject the settlement, writing it has “the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits to the public”. But it warned the settlement “raises legal concerns”, and said it encourages both parties to continue negotiations.

The two groups suggested the 6 November for a new hearing date, at which time they will inform the court of any progress in modifying the agreement.

But the Open Book Alliance, an organisation with members including Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo, said in a statement the request for a delay is a sign the settlement is “dead”.

“And any hope for revival of a settlement will require fundamental reforms. This is a huge victory for all those voices seeking to serve the public interest, protect innovation and promote competition,” the statement said.

If the settlement is approved, Google will pay $US125 million in order to establish an independent Book Rights Registry, which will deliver 63% of all revenue earned from sales of books to authors and publishers who enter agreements to have their works “digitised”.

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