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Friday, February 19, 2010

Federal judge hears arguments on Google books settlement, delays ruling
Matt Glenn at 7:33 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] announced at a hearing Thursday he is not ready to rule on a proposed class action settlement [Authors Guild backgrounder] in a copyright suit [case materials] over Google's book-scanning initiative [corporate website; JURIST news archive]. Judge Denny Chin heard arguments [AP report] from both sides on whether the settlement adequately protects the rights of publishers and authors and whether it violates antitrust law. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] argued that the proposed settlement fails to adequately protect the privacy interests [press release] of readers, stating:

Because the settlement does not contain any privacy protections for users, Google's system will be able to monitor which books users search for, which pages of the books they read and how long they spend on each page. Google could then combine information about readers' habits and interests with additional information it collects from other Google services, creating a massive "digital dossier" that would be highly tempting and possibly vulnerable to fishing expeditions by law enforcement or civil litigants.

Chin did not indicate when a ruling can be expected.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a statement of interest [JURIST report] urging to court to reject the settlement due to copyright and antitrust concerns. The case originated when two lawsuits were brought against Google by the Authors Guild [advocacy website], a group seeking to preserve copyright protection for authors, and by other plaintiffs including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) [organization website], McGraw-Hill, Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster [corporate websites]. Under the terms of the original settlement agreement, which was reached [JURIST report] in October 2008, Google would pay $125 million to authors and publishers of copyrighted works. In return, Google would be allowed to display online up to 20 percent of the total pages of a copyrighted book, and would offer users an opportunity to purchase the remainder of any viewed book. In a separate case, a French court ruled [JURIST report] in December that Google violated French copyright law through its book-scanning initiative.

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