Google, authors and publishers Nov. 13 narrowed the scope of their agreement to let Google sell access to millions of out-of-print books online, limiting it to include works registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or published in the U.K., Australia or Canada. The revised deal also addresses concerns from Amazon, the Department of Justice and others that Google would have too much control over orphan works. The Open Book Alliance, formed in August with Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo to oppose the Google Book Search bid, blasted the revised settlement in a statement.
Google, authors and publishers Nov. 13 narrowed the scope
of their agreement to let Google
sell access to millions of out-of-print books online, limiting it to include
works registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or published in the United
Financial terms of the Google Book Search deal, intended to settle a 2005
copyright suit with Author's Guild and Association of American Publishers, have
not changed. Google will still pay
$125 million to scan out-of-print works into its search engine
and sell access to them to consumers and libraries, sharing revenue with the
authors and publishers who owned the copyrights.
Amazon, the Department of Justice and others had expressed concern that
Google would have too much control over orphan works under the original
agreement filed in October 2008. The revised deal addresses these concerns.
The amended settlement
requires the Book Rights Registry-the group appointed to distribute digital
book sales to Google, authors and publishers-to have a court-approved trustee
to represent rights holders for orphaned works and license their works to third
The trustee can grant licenses to other companies who also want to sell
these books, and will oversee unclaimed money. Money that goes unclaimed for 10
years will be used to locate rights holders or be granted to charities.
The revamped settlement also clarifies how Google's algorithm will work to
price books it scan and sells. The algorithm used to set consumer purchase
prices will simulate the prices in a competitive market, and prices for books
will be established independently of each other. Moreover, the Registry cannot
share pricing information with anyone but the book's rights holder.
The new settlement also removes the non-discrimination clause that pertained
to the Registry licensing of unclaimed works, enabling it to license works to
other parties without ever extending the same terms to Google.
The Open Book Alliance, formed
in August with Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo to oppose the
Google Book Search bid, blasted the revised settlement in a statement. Calling
the revision a "sleight of hand" by Google and its partners, OBA co-chair
Peter Brantley said
"None of the proposed changes appear to address the fundamental flaws
illuminated by the Department of Justice and other critics that impact public
interest. By performing surgical nip and tuck, Google, the AAP,
and the AG are attempting to distract people from their continued efforts to
establish a monopoly over digital content access and distribution; usurp
Congress's role in setting copyright policy; lock writers into their unsought
registry, stripping them of their individual contract rights; put library
budgets and patron privacy at risk; and establish a dangerous precedent by
abusing the class action process."
While the OBA believes the revised deal won't satisfy the DOJ, it is unclear
how the regulator will receive the deal. The DOJ in September said
that the original deal would violate class action, copyright
and antitrust law and should not be approved without changes.
Officials for Google, the Author's Guild and the Association of American
Publishers filed their deal only minutes before the New York District Court's
deadline, capping months of revisions after opponents to the deal complained
that Google would have too much power and control over the digital book market.
New York District Court Judge Denny Chin will set a timeline to study the
deal, which will likely include a notice period, an objection period and a
final fairness hearing in January 2010.
See the modification overviews here
and a FAQ here
Danny Sullivan took notes
during a conference call with Google and officials
from the Author's Guild and AAP.