October 7, 2009
Google Book Settlement Status Conference Set for Today
As widely reported U.S. District Judge Denny Chin postposed the Google Book Settlement fairness hearing that was set for today. Instead the judge ordered a status conference, which will take place today.
The parties shall attend. The Court will not hear arguments from any objectors, supporters, or amici — including those who emailed requests to be heard — at this conference, though they are free to attend.
The Settlement will have be amended because, according to the DOJ, as it now stands it probably violates antitrust laws. About the DOJ's objections, Mark Giangrande (DePaul) writes in LLB's post, Settlement gives defacto exclusivity to Google for distribution for orphan works:
The biggest objection to the Settlement is the industry-wide pricing granted to publishers that restricts what Google and potentially any else can charge for individual books. This concern includes the restriction of future pricing for orphan works that may be in competition with other works from plaintiff publishers. While the Department cannot comment completely on the Settlement until the final terms are set, it identifies the constraints on pricing under control of the publishers as likely anti-competitive without further negotiation. As written, the Settlement gives defacto exclusivity to Google for distribution for orphan works. That, the Department says, is a likely violation of the antitrust laws.
Lawyers for The Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and other plaintiffs said in court filings that they and Google have met with DOJ officials and have agreed to work with the the Justice Department to resolve the antitrust concerns.
The Larger Picture. Karen Coyle calls attention to how the asking of a question, in this instance questions about the Google Book Settlement, shapes reality. The question being asked about the Settlement, Coyle writes, is: "are authors (as defined by the Author's Guild) served by the Google/AAP settlement -- yes or no? The bigger question, What is the future of the book in our civilization? is not on the table. Yet, in the end, that may be the question that is answered by this settlement, whether that outcome serves authors or not." For more, see Coyle's Googlebooks: Innovation and the Future of the Book. [JH]