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Challenge to Google Books settlement focuses on class actions

A lawyer plans to file a new objection to Google's settlement with book rights holders claiming that class action lawsuits were not intended to strike licensing deals.

A new objection to Google's Book Search settlement with books rights holders plans to argue that the parties to the settlement are "trying to ram this through so that millions of copyright holders will have no idea that this is happening."

Google's plan to digitize books on a grand scale has its fair share of detractors, and Scott Gant will soon join them in opposition to the settlement according to The New York Times. Gant, a lawyer with Boies Schiller & Flexner, says he's acting on his own as an author concerned about the use of class action status to lump all authors into the same pool.

Several groups acting on behalf of publishers and authors sued Google in 2005 over its plan to digitize books, and the suit was granted class action status. That meant that when Google and the publishing groups settled the lawsuit in 2008, publishers and authors that held the rights to books that were out of print but still protected by copyright law had to opt out of the settlement if they didn't want to participate in the project. They have until next month to do so.

Gant will file a brief with the court arguing that this is "an abuse of the class action process," according to the Times, which also noted that some legal scholars believe this is a novel challenge to the settlement. Many of the objections have focused on the fact that with the settlement, there's only one institution in the United States that has the legal authority to scan out-of-print books still protected by copyright: Google.

The class action status meant that Google did not have to individually negotiate with rights holders for"orphan works," a vast undertaking that nonetheless should have been conducted if Google and the parties to the settlement were truly interested in preserving the rights of authors, Gant argues. As part of the settlement, Google has had to show that it is taking as many steps as possible to ensure all possible rights holders have been informed about the settlement and their options under the agreement, but Gant's brief plans to say that licensing agreements should not be established via class action lawsuit.

Google told the Times that regardless of how the deal was reached, rights holders still have control over their destiny, and can opt out of the settlement should they wish to prohibit Google from scanning their work. A final hearing in the case is scheduled for October.