Saturday, November 14, 2009

Revised Google Settlement Released

As expected, Google and its partners released the revised Google Books Settlement yesterday afternoon. You can read the whole 173-page behemoth here [PDF], and the NYT offers a summary.

"The revisions to the settlement primarily address the handling of so-called orphan works, the millions of books whose rights holders are unknown or cannot be found. The changes call for the appointment of an independent fiduciary, or trustee, who will be solely responsible for decisions regarding orphan works.

The trustee, with Congressional approval, can grant licenses to other companies who also want to sell these books, and will oversee the pool of unclaimed funds that they generate. If the money goes unclaimed for 10 years, according to the revised settlement, it will go to philanthropy and to an effort to locate rights holders. In the original settlement, unclaimed funds reverted to known rights holders after five years.

The changes also restrict the Google catalog to books published in the United States, Britain, Australia or Canada. That move is intended to resolve objections from the French and German governments, which complained that the settlement did not abide by copyright law in those countries.

The revised settlement could make it easier for other companies to compete with Google in offering their own digitized versions of older library books because it drops a provision that was widely interpreted as ensuring that no other company could get a better deal with authors and publishers than the one Google had struck
."

Google Books Engineering Director Dan Clancy says in a blog post "We're disappointed that we won't be able to provide access to as many books from as many countries through the settlement as a result of our modifications, but we look forward to continuing to work with rightsholders from around the world to fulfill our longstanding mission of increasing access to all the world's books."

There's also a Summary of Revisions, and an FAQ about the changes (both PDF).

Judge Denny Chin will now schedule a "fairness hearing" on the revised settlement, and the Justice Department is reviewing the revisions. Opponents of the plan don't seem entirely placated: the Open Content Alliance calls the revisions "a sleight of hand; fundamentally, this settlement remains a set-piece designed to serve the private commercial interests of Google and its partners. ... 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."

We'll see - the saga continues!

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