Federal Judge Denny Chin has rejected a class action settlement that Google had reached with a coalition of authors and publishers, saying the settlement "would simply go too far."
Chin continued, that the settlement would "grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners," and give Google "a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case."
The Google books project was challenged in federal court by the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers. In 2009 a settlement between the parties was reached, stating that Google could create a registry of books and pay $125 million to people whose copyrighted books have been scanned and to locate the authors of scanned books who have not come forward, Reuters reports. The settlement, Bloomberg notes, would have also provided Google "immunity from copyright laws, allowing the company to distribute millions of books on the Internet in exchange for sharing the revenue it would generate."
Responding to Judge Chin's 48-page opinion, the Authors Guild said in a press statement that it "lauds the many benefits of the settlement," and "has left the door open for a revised agreement. In his conclusion, Judge Chin says that ‘many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA [the Amended Settlement Agreement] were converted from an ‘opt-out' settlement to an ‘opt-in settlement. I urge the parties to consider revising the ASA accordingly.'"
Hillary Ware, a managing counsel for Google, expressed disappointment in Chin's opinion, saying the company was considering its options," The Wall Street Journal reports.
"Like many others," Ware added, "we believe this agreement has the potential to open-up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the U.S. today."
In an ACS Issue Brief, James Grimmelmann, a law professor at New York Law School's Institute for Information Law and Policy, examined the Google Books settlement. David Balto, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress also explored the settlement in this guest post for ACSblog.