Google Book Settlement on standby

For quite a while the knives have been out for the Google Book Settlement (a brief introduction to the agreement by yours truly can be found here). The European Union for example has been particularly interested in the implications of the settlement this side of the Atlantic, and has hinted that it does not meet regulatory approval over here. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Justice voiced concerns over the settlement. Academics have also voiced their concern, two pieces by the always incisive James Boyle here and here; or James Grimmelman’s excellent opinion here.

Buckling under the regulatory pressure, Google has then decided to call for a time out to make changes to the agreement. First the plaintiffs requested more time to make changes, and Google has agreed that a fairness hearing should be postponed until a revision to the settlement can be worked out.

I am still on two minds about this. I believe that there are some very good things about the agreement, if not on the detail, certainly on the broad ideals that it espouses. There is need to work out the relationship between aggregators and content owners, and this the GBS is one step in that direction. It is also interesting that the GBS is offering a private solution to the problem of orphan works that blights copyright policy. Something that came out last week at Gikii is that there is a possibility that the Google settlement will push policymakers towards finally legislating about orphan works.

As with so many ongoing legal issues, we shall wait and see.

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