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Critics tell judge to reject Google books settlement

Critics of Google's settlement with book authors and publishers over digital book rights say a revised deal by the parties falls short.

Late Wednesday, groups including the Internet Archives filed comments to a New York federal court. Some say the deal still gives Google too much power over millions of book titles, violates copyright laws, and unfairly edges out competitors. Thursday is the deadline set by the court for public comment on the deal.

The comments come just hours after Apple released its new iPad tablet computer, a device that many observers say could further roil the media landscape. Already, the introduction of new devices for digital books and publications have lured users to the rapidly growing market for e-books. Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble are among a slew of companies jockeying to dominate the nascent field. Critics say Google's settlement will give the search giant an unfair advantage as it will hold the rights over millions of titles.

Peter Brantley, a member of IA and co-founder of the Open Book Alliance, said during a visit to the Post last week, that revisions brought before a federal judge still give exclusive rights to Google.

"There were some cosmetic changes but the substance is the same in that it imposes a Google monopoly and violates laws," he said. Brantley was in Washington last week meeting with lawmakers to talk about the deal.

In its filing, IA said it was concerned that the settlement would give Google exclusive rights over so-called orphan works, out-of-print books whose owners are not known or can't be found. Competitors, meanwhile, could be sued by those rights holders for scanning and publishing the works but Google would be protected from liability.

Google and the authors and publishers in the settlement told the court they would appoint a third-party board to oversee the distribution of licensing fees for rights holders of orphan works. But IA said that members of a third-party body shouldn't be appointed by Google and parties because it would be biased.

OBA, a group whose membership consists of library groups and authors, as well as Google competitors Microsoft, Amazon, Yahoo, will file separate comments later today.

The comments due Thursday mark the next phase in Google's long legal battle to win the rights to scan and publish digital copies of millions of books. Authors will also say on Thursday whether they want to opt out of Google's settlement with major authors and publishing groups to scan and access out-of-print books.

On February 4th, the Justice Department will respond to the revised settlement. Judge Denny Chin, of the U.S. District Court of the Southern DIstrict of New York will hold a fairness hearing on the settlement Feb. 18 and decide whether to approve it.

Amazon is planning to file objections to the court on Thursday. The electronic books service provider has protested the deal, arguing that it violates copyright laws. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and public interest groups have also raised concerns that the settlement doesn't properly protect the privacy of user data.

By Cecilia Kang  |  January 27, 2010; 11:50 PM ET
Categories:  Google , copyright  
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Wow. Cecilia Kang mentions criticisms of Google. I am impressed.

The appropriate outcome of this case is for Google to be penalized for being a wholesale scofflaw and committing massive violations of copyright laws.

Posted by: LBrettGlass | January 28, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

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