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Federal Judge Rejects Google Books Deal 234

Posted by timothy
from the edge-of-the-copyright-envelope dept.
14erCleaner writes "US Circuit Judge Denny Chin has rejected a $125 million settlement between Google Books and the author's guild that would have allowed Google to publish all out-of-work fiction online. Chin has previously ruled more favorably on this case."
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Federal Judge Rejects Google Books Deal

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  • by assemblerex (1275164) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:24PM (#35580692)
    to represent all authors of out of print fiction? Can I install myself
    as the representative for all out of print romance?
    What a load of cowpucks
  • by krizoitz (1856864) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:29PM (#35580752)
    Despite its attempts to spin itself as the white knight, Google is far from altrusitic and this ruling is a victory for the little guy. It was bad enough when Google started illegal scanning copyrighted works. It was bad enough when Google's only response was "fine we'll stop, but only when you specifically ask us to for YOUR books". But the deal that would give Google such extensive control over the scanning and sale of these works? That was unacceptable and I'm glad the judge agreed. I really wish people would wake up and realize that Google has long since abandon its "Don't be Evil" motto.
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:45PM (#35580932)

    The rest of the members will be mailed a notification of settlement, including instructions on how to get their $0.38 share of the award (the lawyers, of course, will get about $45M off the top).

    Except that there's no payment for anyone (except the laywers, of course), because the judge rejected the settlement -- Google wanted to pay $125M for the ability to make out-of-print books available online, giving authors the ability to opt out. The judge suggests that opt-in would be better, but I'd guess that there are many more out-of-print books with authors that are dead, just-don't-care or would be happy that their books will be available, than those that want their out-of-print book to stay out of print because they have some grand plan to reissue it some day.

    So the opt-in model is far less valuable to public (and to Google) because it means that far fewer out-of-print books can be made available.

  • by jvonk (315830) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:51PM (#35581004)

    How does some guild get authority to represent all authors of out of print fiction?

    Well, according to TFB (blurb), that's essentially the judge's rationale for rejecting the deal.

    I am torn: on one hand, I believe that copyright law no longer "promotes the progress of Science and useful Arts", so I would like to see Google have the ability to make a sweeping digital library of abandonware books (seriously, if the authors aren't selling the book, how are they harmed?)

    However, if this deal went through, it seems likely that it would have been the birth of another MAFIAA-style intellectual property racket.

    So, perhaps we are considering the situation from an artificially constrained viewpoint. The pragmatic approach to getting the digital library would have been to take the deal with this newborn devil, but we would have to live with those consequences. The idealistic approach would be to "fix" copyright law so that such a library could be created... you know, the better to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts".

    Does anyone else want some of what I am apparently smoking to cause me to have such fantastic & vague ideas (haha)? Maybe I got hit on the head or something.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:56PM (#35581046) Journal

    But if you can't keep doing it, there's no reason to settle. Unless that's part of the settlement.

    Google infringed on a few books. The $125M was to make it okay for them to infringe on all books. If they were just going to stop infringing and compensate the people they've already infringed, their offer would be like $1.98.

  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:08PM (#35581136) Journal
    That's only part of the problem. The other part is that Google would have been granted a license to disregard copyright (for the cheap price of $125m! That's about 30 cents per American. Don't you wish that you collectively could by an exemption from copyright or that little?), but no one else would have. I wouldn't have minded if Google had been advocating a change to the law to make this kind of archive possible. Some form of compulsory licensing with fixed royalty rates would have been great. But a ruling that lets Google violate copyright but prevents their competitors from doing the same thing? That's pretty horrible.
  • unobtainable books. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mirix (1649853) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:55PM (#35581494)

    A while back I was doing some research on vacuum tube based logic circuits (don't ask). My random googling brought up repeated mention of several books. They may even be public domain by now, I'm unsure. They dated to around WWII.

    Anyhow, regardless of copyright status, the things were absolute fucking unobtainium. It really is a shame that things like this essentially get lost to the wheel of time. Whether it be due to copyright, or just plain being out of print and public domain. It's a crime against knowledge.

    Fortunately I don't think this will be the case in the future, as most currently released books are surely digitized (legally or not) and hopefully will be around by the time they are hopelessly obsolete, out of print, lacking demand, commercially unviable, and/or enter public domain.

  • by VertigoAce (257771) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:58PM (#35581504)

    The issue here is that it isn't possible for anybody else to negotiate the same deal Google was going for with this settlement. Google was trying to reach a deal with an entire class, not a specific group of authors. So while a competitor could negotiate a similar deal with specific authors or groups of authors, they would be unable to create a deal with the entire class of authors (unless faced with a class action lawsuit and able to negotiate the same settlement).

    It sounds like the judge agreed with this objection and indicated that the deal might work if authors needed to opt-in rather than opt-out. Under an opt-in system, authors could opt-in to a competitor's service as well as Google's. Alternatively, Google could try to get copyright law changed so that their opt-out system would be allowed by law (and competitors could set up similar systems without facing infringement lawsuits).

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @10:45PM (#35582194)

    Google is indexing and posting online all books that they can, not just ones that are out of print. The reason that I'm glad that the settlement was overturned is that it gives Google far too much power. After paying the token sum, Google may put any out of print books online

    Man you are REALLY going to be pissed when you find out what they are doing in libraries.

    Way to think of future generations over yourself.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @01:10AM (#35582910)

    It sounds like the judge agreed with this objection and indicated that the deal might work if authors needed to opt-in rather than opt-out. Under an opt-in system, authors could opt-in to a competitor's service as well as Google's.

    Sounds like the Judge's ruling could be overturned on appeal. Google's competitors are not party to the class action suit.

    The court is to accept the settlement if it is fair and equitable to members of the class suing. The quotation is problematic

    rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.”

    The court is concentrating on the settlement containing a "reward" for Google. But it is not unusual, when parties settle, for the agreement to contain terms that reward both parties. In this case it is not a zero sum game -- Google's "wholesale copying" is beneficial to the settlement class, if only, Google can compensate them, and the legal action is Google's only opportunity to do so.

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