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Judge in Google Books case says no ruling Thursday

At hearing to decide the fate of Google's planned digital library, Judge Denny Chin says he'll listen to opinions carefully and ask plenty of questions. That, he's already done.

The scene in front of the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Courthouse in Manhattan Thursday morning, where the Google Books hearing is taking place. Greg Sandoval/CNET

NEW YORK--Federal Judge Denny Chin kicked off the much-anticipated Google Books hearing Thursday morning here by making one thing clear: there will be no quick ruling in the case.

"I'm going to say right off, I'm not going to rule today," Chin said, highlighting the droves of written submissions that have come in from passionate parties on all sides of the case. "I'm going to listen to opinions carefully and I'm going to ask a few questions."

And that he's already done in morning testimony, which has been going on for more than three hours before a crowded courtroom and overflow room. For example, he interrupted an attorney testifying for Microsoft by pressing him on why Sony, a competitor, is all right with the proposed settlement, but Microsoft isn't.

Some of the other groups and businesses that have testified so far include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amazon, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The proposed settlement being debated in the case--reached between Google and the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers--would allow Google to partially display in-copyright but out-of-print books alongside books authorized by publishers and public domain works in Google Books.

The deal would make Google the only organization in the U.S. explicitly authorized to make digital copies of out-of-print yet copyright-protected books, much to the dismay of many authors and privacy advocates.

Potential competitors, however, object to the unique rights that Google has been granted based on the class action status of the lawsuit, with authors upset over Google's decision to scan their works without asking permission. Privacy advocates fear corporate oversight of what books people are reading. And the U.S. Department of Justice has twice expressed "antitrust" concerns over the proposed settlement.

Stay tuned for more coverage from the hearing.

Staff writer Tom Krazit contributed to this report.

Members of the National Federation of the Blind, which testified at Thursday's Google Books hearing, mill around outside the federal courthouse. Greg Sandoval/CNET