Google, Authors Guild in Revised Book Deal

Google and the Authors Guild filed a new version of a deal to create a massive online library on Friday in hopes of answering antitrust and copyright concerns in the United States and overseas.

Google’s plan to put millions of books online has been praised for expanding access to books but has also been criticized on antitrust, copyright and privacy grounds.

According to a 30-page court filing made by the parties late on Friday, a section was eliminated that required the book registry created by the settlement to give Google at least as good a deal as any competitor.

In another shift, money from unclaimed or orphan works will go to an independent fiduciary rather than go to the registry.

The Justice Department in September, had pointed to that arrangement as a conflict of interest since it was the registry that was also tasked with locating writers and paying them for their online sales.

Under the new deal, unclaimed funds will eventually go to charities.

The class action agreement must be approved by a court, and the Justice Department had recommended that the previous version be rejected because of concerns that it might break antitrust law. It also had concerns about violations of copyright law.

“We’ve had numerous discussions and quite a lot of dialogue with the Justice Department and feel we’ve addressed their key concerns,” said Richard Sarnoff, president of Bertelsmann Digital Media.

The agreement is designed to settle a 2005 class action lawsuit filed against Google by authors and publishers who had accused the search engine giant of copyright infringement for scanning libraries full of books.

International objections

As part of the amended deal, books in the registry would be reduced to those copyrighted in the United States or published in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

There had been significant international objection to the deal on the grounds that non-English speaking authors, in particular, were represented by the authors and publishers who sued Google but had no say in negotiating the deal.

Dan Clancy, architect of the Google program, said the search giant would reach out to authors’ groups overseas.

German book publishers have been up in arms about the deal, and on September 24 they criticized European regulators for failing to take a stand against the settlement.

The French publishing house La Martiniere, the French Publishers’ Association and authors’ group SGDL asked a Paris court to fine Google for infringement for digitizing their books.

On October 22, a group representing authors in China accused Google of copyright infringement.

Critics of the deal have been a varied group that includes Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft, the National Writers Union, Consumer Watchdog and singer Arlo Guthrie.

The case is Authors Guild et al v Google Inc 05-08136 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)

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