Google Book Search Judge Impatient, Pushes for Settlement

Google's Book Search deal may be headed for an opt-in conclusion, according to counsel for the agreement. District Court Judge Denny Chin said he wants to see a deal Sept. 15.

The federal judge presiding over Google's controversial Book Search agreement is growing impatient with the search engine and the authors and publishers with whom it is trying to reach a revised agreement.

New York District Court Judge Denny Chin has asked the parties to come to a new settlement before his next hearing, which he penciled in for Sept. 15. If both sides cannot reach a new agreement, Chin will set a schedule for the case to proceed to trial.

Google struck a Google Book Search deal with authors and publishers in October 2008, aiming to resolve a copyright case with rights holders stretching back to 2005.

The company agreed to pay $125 million to scan out-of-print works into its search engine and sell access to them to consumers and libraries via its Google Books site. Google would also share any book sales with the authors and publishers who owned the copyrights.

The deal was revised in November 2009. However, it was heavily criticized by the U.S. Justice Department and Google rivals, such as Amazon and Microsoft, and ultimately rejected by Chin in March.

The judge said the agreement would give Google a de facto monopoly over unclaimed works and concluded the deal was unfair to rights holders whose copyrighted works would be served online without their permission.

He called for a revised settlement, preferably one that allowed rights holders to opt-in to the plan. But Chin also warned that if such a deal was not hashed out sufficiently, he would pursue a trial.

The Laboratium blog reported that Authors Guild counsel Michael J. Boni said during a hearing with Chin July 19 that the parties needed more time and hoped to reach an "opt-in settlement," which is what many of the deal's opponents called for.

Yet Chin expressed impatience, saying he was concerned there was no revised plan to present at the hearing.

A Google spokesperson declined to confirm whether the parties are working on an opt-in settlement, but told eWEEK the company has been working closely with the authors and publishers to explore a number of options in response to the court's decision.

"Regardless of the outcome, we'll continue to make books discoverable and useful through Google Books and Google eBooks," the spokesperson said, alluding to the company's present digital book service, which has a few million titles to offer.