October 28, 2008

Google to Settle Book-Scanning Suit with Publishers, Authors

Filed under: copyright, innovation, markets — wseltzer @ 11:21 am

As I learned via Twitter this morning (thanks, Tim O’Reilly), the Authors’ and Publishers’ class counsel have reached a proposed settlement of their lawsuits against Google’s book scanning program. Early press reports say Google will pay about $125 million.

There are some fascinating pieces to the settlement agreement, including some that look like private implementations of infrastructure you’d really expect government to provide: a registry of copyrighted works, a quasi-orphan-works safe harbor for good-faith use of works believed to be in the public domain. There are provisions for school and library access, and a marketplace, a clearing-center for Google to share revenue from commercial uses it makes.

I worry about the effects on competition — Google’s high settlement payments are barriers to entry by anyone else. Though it’s plausible no one had the resources or spine to compete with Google regardless, a judicial determination that the use was fair would have enabled more competition in parallel and distinct library offerings. Now, Google cements its advantage in yet another field. (And of course, with the circularity of “effect on the market” testing, makes it harder for someone else to claim fair use.)

More to come on closer reading…


  1. [...] Fair Use Advocates: There are many (myself included) who believed Google had a strong fair use argument to support their scanning efforts. It was hoped that a Google court victory would reaffirm those rights. By settling out of court Google avoided the issue entirely. Clearly Google has some long term goals for this content that would not have fallen under Fair Use. In the end Google was better off striking a deal with the rightsholders. Also, it’s been noted that by avoiding this issue entirely Google may have effectively locked out any future competition. [...]

    Pingback by The Google Book Search Deal: Winners and Losers | Medialoper — October 28, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

  2. Orphan works tied up with revenue accruing only to Google? Indexing & discovery limited to Google’s search? ‘research’ access limited to machine reading and not human reading? I think there’s a lot here to be explored and an opportunity to influence it before the Court makes its judgment. Unintended consequences of private lockups are worth some thought.

    Comment by Linda — October 29, 2008 @ 12:14 am

  3. [...] while I suggested on my first read of the settlement that the registry and clearinghouse “look[ed] like private implementations of infrastructure [...]

    Pingback by Wendy’s Blog: Legal Tags » Compelling Silliness: Register on Google Book Settlement — September 17, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

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