Google Offers Provisions on Digital Book Deal

Google_Books_logoInternet search leader Google will ease its control over millions of copyright-protected books earmarked for its digital library if a court approves a revised lawsuit settlement that addresses objections of antitrust regulators.

The offer comes two months after the U.S. Justice Department balked at Google’s original agreement with authors and publishers, warning the arrangement could do more harm than good in the emerging market for electronic books.

Google Inc. is hoping to keep the deal alive with a series of new provisions. Among other things, the modified agreement provides more flexibility to offer discounts on electronic books and promises to make it easier for others to resell access to a digital index of books covered in the settlement.

Copyright holders also would have to give more explicit permission to sell digital book copies if another version is being sold anywhere else in the world.

The concessions filed late Friday in New York federal court are just the latest twist in a class-action lawsuit filed against Google four years ago by groups representing the interests of U.S. authors and publishers. The suit alleged Google’s ambition to make digital copies of all the books in the world trampled their intellectual rights.

Google negotiated a $125 million truce nearly 13 months ago only to be attacked by a brigade of critics who protested to U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who must approve the agreement before it takes effect. The financial terms of the settlement remain intact, including a promise to give 63 percent of all sales proceeds to participating authors and publishers.

Among other complaints, the opposition said the plan would put Google in charge of a literary cartel that could illegally rig the prices of electronic books — a format that is expected to become increasingly popular.

In echoing some of those concerns, the Justice Department advised Chin that the original settlement probably would break laws set up to preserve competition and protect copyright holders, even if they can’t be located.

The concessions didn’t go far enough to satisfy one of the most strident opponents, Open Book Alliance, a group that includes Google rivals Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

“Our initial review of the new proposal tells us that Google and its partners are performing a sleight of hand,” said Peter Brantley, the Open Book Alliance’s co-chairman. “Fundamentally, this settlement remains a set-piece designed to serve the private commercial interests of Google and its partners.”

In a Friday conference call, representatives for Google, the authors and publishers expressed confidence the revisions would gain court approval, although they conceded they didn’t respond to all misgivings raised by the Justice Department.

Under the timeline laid out in the revised settlement, the Justice Department would have until Feb. 4 to file its opinion about the changes. The revised settlement suggests that a final hearing be scheduled for Feb. 18.

French and German officials also protested the settlement, arguing that it’s so broad that it could infringe on copyrights in their countries.

The revised settlement would apply only to books registered with the U.S. copyright office or published in Canada, the United Kingdom or Australia.

Much of the concern about the settlement has focused on whether it would give Google a monopoly on so-called “orphan works” — out-of-print books that are still protected by copyright but whose writers’ whereabouts are unknown.

If the writers or their heirs don’t stake a claim to their works, the original settlement calls for any money made from the sales of their books to go into a pool that eventually would be shared among the authors and publishers who had stepped forward to work with Google.

The revised settlement will designate an independent party to oversee the financial interests of the orphan books’ copyright owners. Proceeds from the sales to orphan books also would be held for 10 years, up from five years in the original agreement. After that, the money would be given to charities.

The revised settlement suggests that a final hearing be scheduled for Feb. 18.

Mobile

Huawei has a bold Plan B should tensions affect its software relationships

Huawei has its own software for smartphones and computers prepared, should its relationship with Google and Microsoft be adversely affected by ongoing tensions between it and the U.S..
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Movies & TV

Disney Plus: Here’s what we know so far about the upcoming streaming service

Disney is bringing the full weight of its massive content library to its own streaming service in 2019. How will Disney Plus compare to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime? Here's what we know so far.
Cars

Ford to expand autonomous-car research in race to launch robo-taxi service

Ford is in a race with Waymo and GM Cruise to launch large-scale taxi and delivery services using autonomous vehicles. Already testing its technology in four U.S. cities, the automaker looks set to expand its program to a fifth.
Computing

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.
Computing

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Computing

Amazon and Nvidia bring artificial intelligence to the cloud with T4 GPUs

Nvidia announced the availability of new mainstream servers optimized to run the company's latest T4 GPUs with Turning architecture. Amazon jumped on board immediately, announcing that new AWS EC2 G4 instances will offer the technology.
Computing

Calibrate your display to get it looking just the way you like it

Want to see images the way they're intended to be seen? Here is our quick guide on how to calibrate your monitor using your operating system or another tool, to make what's on the screen look as good as it can.
Computing

How to change your Gmail password in just a few quick steps

Regularly updating your passwords is a good way to stay secure online, but each site and service has their own way of doing it. Here's a quick guide on how to change your Gmail password in a few short steps.
Computing

Sending SMS messages from your PC is easier than you might think

Texting is a fact of life, but what to do when you're in the middle of something on your laptop or just don't have your phone handy? Here's how to send a text message from a computer, whether you prefer to use an email client or Windows 10.
Computing

Netgear’s new Nighthawk Tri-band AX12 router brings Wi-Fi 6 speeds to the masses

Available in May for $600, the Nighthawk Tri-band AX12 router allows for maximum Wi-Fi performance on smart home devices and offers everything needed for gaming, streaming, and other high-bandwidth applications. 
Home Theater

Smart speakers are about to get an IQ bump thanks to new Qualcomm chips

Qualcomm announced a new chipset that is designed to make the next generation of smart speakers sound, listen, and connect better than ever before, and it could soon be in your living room.
Computing

Reluctant to give your email address away? Here's how to make a disposable one

Want to sign up for a service without the risk of flooding your inbox with copious amounts of spam and unwanted email? You might want to consider using disposable email addresses via one of these handy services.
Computing

Don't take your provider's word for it. Here's how to test your internet speed

If you're worried that you aren't getting the most from your internet package, speed tests are a great way to find out what your real connection is capable of. Here are the best internet speed tests available today.