U.S. Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin ’75 rejected a proposed settlement between Google, The Authors Guild and The Association of American Publishers that would have allowed the leading Internet search engine company to proceed with its Google Books Search project on Tuesday. The decision has major implications for the University’s digitization efforts.
Both The Authors Guild and The Association of American Publishers sued Google separately for copyright law violation in 2005, challenging the company’s right to scan and save entire books still protected by copyright.
Google has already scanned more than 15 million books for the project, which launched in December 2004.
A six-year agreement made between the University Library and Google in 2007 to make about one million texts from the library collection available online remains unaffected because they are considered to be in the public domain.
Google is expected to finish scanning the public domain material from the University’s library collection sometime this year, Deputy University Librarian Marvin Bielawski said, but the library had planned to start sending books under copyright once the settlement was approved.
“We’re disappointed with the judge’s decision,” Bielawski explained. “A great deal of content that has been digitized and is up on Google will now not be unlocked.”
“What we’re hoping is that Google and The Authors Guild and The Association of American Publishers will go back to the table and see if they can craft a revised settlement that the judge will approve,” he added.
The settlement would have allowed Google to make the full texts of books registered with the U.S. copyright office or published in the U.K., Australia or Canada available online.
Public libraries would have had free access to the books, and individual and institutional subscription fees would have been split between Google and the copyright holders. Authors and publishers would have the choice of opting out.
In exchange, Google would have paid $125 million to launch a Book Rights Registry to serve as an independent organization representing the rights holders of unclaimed books.
Chin wrote in his ruling that the proposed settlement, if approved, “would simply go too far” and “grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books without permission of the copyright owners.”
Still, he acknowledged the benefits of compiling a digital database of texts and urged the parties involved to propose a revised settlement.
In particular, Chin noted that the lack of future liability that Google would face in continuing the project, the company’s resulting “de facto monopoly” over unclaimed works and the idea of having to opt out as opposed to choosing to opt in were problematic.
He added that Congress should determine the accessibility of orphan works, copyrighted texts whose legal owners cannot be reached or are unknown, rather than private organizations.
Chin declined to comment for this article, citing his ongoing involvement with the case.
The Association of American Publishers issued a press release on Tuesday stating that it plans to work with Google and The Authors Guild to draft a revised settlement.
“We believe that the provisions of the Settlement would give these efforts a tremendous boost and would open a world of opportunities for readers, researchers, authors, libraries and publishers for decades to come,” the statement said. “For that reason, publishers are prepared to modify the Settlement Agreement to gain approval.”
Chin was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in October 2009 by President Barack Obama.
Chin is the only Asian-American judge currently serving in the federal appellate court system, and he received the Woodrow Wilson Award, an honor conferred annually to an undergraduate alumnus or alumna for achievements in service, in February.