Google’s attempt to organise all of the world’s information has been dealt a blow by a federal judge in the United States who rejected the Mountain View company’s plan to digitize every book ever published and make it widely available to all.
The decision, by Judge Denny Chin, means that a $125 million settlement agreed between Google and the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers could now have to be renegotiated if the project wants to progress. The project is the brain child of soon-to-be CEO Larry Page and would see all books ever published made available to everyone via its Google Books portal. While Google was initially sued by the authors and publishers back in 2005 they subsequentially reached a settlement with them, but then faced opposition from rivals like Amazon and Microsoft, as well as academics, authors, copyright experts, the US Justice Department and foreign goverments – which led to the current legal proceedings.
Google currently has around 15 million books scanned and all of the out of copyright books are available in their entirety. Of the books still in copyright, Google has licences for some and shows around 20 percent of these titles while for those it has no licence for it displays only a few pages. Giving his decision, Judge Chin cited copyright, antitrust and other concerns saying the settlement went too far. He said it would have granted Google a “de facto monopoly” and the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners. However the door has been left open for a new settlement to be made, with Judge Chin adding: “The creation of a universal digital library would benefit many,” however the current agreement was “not fair, adequate and reasonable.”
Google were obviously disappointed saying: “Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the US today.” However, those opposing the settlement were happy with the decision: “Even though it is efficient for Google to make all the books available, the orphan works and unclaimed books problem should be addressed by Congress, not by the private settlement of a lawsuit,” said Pamela Samuelson, a copyright expert at the University of California, Berkeley.
It remains to be seen what Google’s next step will be, but with Page stepping up to the top job next month, it is unlikely they are just going to forget about the project and we expect to see them back in the courtroom very soon.
In better news for Google, it has been granted a patent for “Systems and methods for enticing users to access a web site” - aka Google Doodles. Crediting Sergey Brin as the sole inventor of the Doodles, the decision comes ten years after Google initially applied for the patent.
Source: New York Times