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Judge sets February hearing for new Google Books deal

Schedule is laid out for the second round of the final approval process as preliminary approval is given to the revised deal submitted last Friday.

The judge overseeing the Google Books case has laid out the schedule for the second round of the final approval process, at the same time granting preliminary approval of the revised deal.

Like before, opponents of Google's settlement with groups representing authors and publishers will have a comment period in which to file objections, and books rights holders who want to preserve their abilty to sue Google for scanning their books will have an opt-out deadline. The final hearing is set for February 18 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

After numerous interest groups and the Department of Justice objected to Google's original settlement over digital books scanning, the parties submitteda revised settlement late Friday night that amended the size of the class affected by the deal and wrote into the document explicit guarantees regarding access to the scanned material that were previously mere promises.

This wasn't enough to satisfy Google's most persistent critics, however, who will likely fill Judge Denny Chin's mailbox with objections to the revised settlement much the same way they did prior to the original September deadline. After the DOJ filed its own set of objections, final approval of the settlement was delayed until the parties could work out something more amenable to the government.

Opponents will have until January 28th to file objections with the court. That's also the same date for affected class members to decide whether or not they would like to opt out of the amended agreement.

Rights holders who opted out of the previous agreement also have until January to decide if they would like to opt into the revised agreement, otherwise the court will assume they still wish to opt out. Those who missed the deadline the first time around have a second chance to opt out by January 28th.

Google released a statement regarding the court filing. "The preliminary approval order sends a positive initial message; this agreement promises to benefit readers and researchers, and enhance the ability of authors and publishers to distribute their content in digital form. We remain hopeful that the agreement will receive final approval from the court and will realize the goal of significantly expanding online access to works through Google Book Search, an ambitious effort to make millions of books searchable via the Web."

The Open Books Alliance, which has vigorously opposed the settlement, weighed in a little later with a statement of their own.

"Today, in an expected procedural move, Judge Denny Chin granted preliminary approval to the revised Settlement of Google's copyright infringement lawsuit. This is not a surprising development and is not any indication that the court will or will not accept the terms of Settlement 2.0. The same procedural preliminary approval was given to Settlement 1.0, and now sets up a court process that will allow those opposed to the revised settlement to let their objections known to the court. The U.S. Department of Justice has until February 4th to weigh in with the court, as their investigation into the matter continues."