Revised Google Books Deal Draws Fire

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Last November, Internet giant Google offered a new version of its Google Books settlement agreement, which (if approved) would enable the company to create an enormous digital library and bookstore—including copyrighted works for which Google has not secured permissions. The court set a January 28 deadline for parties to file objections the preliminary settlement, and critics have lined up to slam Google’s plans, with many claiming the deal could easily give Google a monopoly on digital versions of a vast number of books.

Under the original deal, Google would have had exclusive rights to the digital versions of a vast number of so-called “orphan” books, which are typically out-of-print books for whom the real rights holders are either unknown or have been found. A large number of these works are from foreign authors. However, members of the Open Book Alliance—originally formed to oppose Google’s plans—still object to the proposed settlement.

In a new filing to the court, Amazon.com warns that the settlement “continues to give Google exclusive rights likely to lead to a monopoly,” enabling Google to not only control pricing, selection, and the process of reading books, but also control who is permitted to act as a reseller and dictate resellers cuts on sales. The Internet Archive, which has opposed the Google Books deal since day one, continues to voice opposition, saying the revised deal does nothing to mitigate concerns over the original; instead, the revised deal offers “minor amendments that still allow [Google] to manipulate class procedures to seize rights that copyright law as secured to others.”

However, some critics of the original proposal have come out in favor of the amended deal, including the Canadian Publishers Council and the UK’s Society of Authors. Google maintains that the Google Books project would benefit the broader public by providing vastly improved access to millions of out-of-print books.

The judge in the case plans hold a hearing on the fairness of the revised settlement agreement on February 18.

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