Closing chapter of Google Books saga near

Monday's deadline to submit a revised settlement could mark the beginning of the end for the Google Books legal process, after a year of rancorous debate.

Every book project is a series of deadlines. Google's faces an important one Monday.

Google and representatives for author and publisher groups are due to submit a revised Google Book Search settlement in New York federal court Monday. It's been a long year since they first reached a settlement they deemed "historic," which would have granted Google unique rights to continue scanning out-of-print yet copyright-protected books as it builds out a digital library containing more than 10 million books, which also includes public domain works as well as books scanned through partnerships with publishers.

However, opposition to the settlement grew in the months following its release, and the intervention of the Department of Justice in September forced the parties to rework the settlement. Google has sought to downplay the changes that are in the works, but the filing will showcase just how much Google and author groups have had to bend in order to satisfy the government.

It's not clear how widespread the changes will be. The Justice Department objected to several items it found "serious in isolation, and, taken together, raise cause for concern." The principal objection seemed to concern the Books Rights Registry, a nonprofit organization set up by Google and the author groups to distribute royalty payments from Google Book Search to authors. The group's directors will be picked by the parties, and while Google insists that anyone else who wants to scan out-of-print books can negotiate with the Registry, some objectors are concerned that they won't be able to get the same deal that Google has received.

The main problem, however, is that the settlement effectively sets copyright law precedent by affirming Google's position that it was, and is, allowed to scan books that are out of print but protected by copyright under fair-use rights. This does not sit well with many, and ahead of the revised settlement's release, Google's loudest opponents made their case that Google and author groups should defer to Congress on this issue.

"Congress must retain the exclusive authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to set copyright policy," declared the Open Book Alliance, a group that includes the Internet Archive, Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo.

The revised settlement is expected to be filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York late on Monday. It's believed that Judge Denny Chin will order some sort of waiting period for interested parties to review the settlement before holding a final hearing, perhaps in early 2010.

About the author

    Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.

     

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