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Google Books settlement hearing

Mark Ward | 17:05 UK time, Thursday, 18 February 2010

On 18 February, Google steps into a New York court room to argue that it should be allowed to go on building a vast digital library made up of millions of books. The hearing is the end result of two years of negotiation over a settlement deal with the long list of people and organisations that object to its plans.

Google filed a 77-page brief outlining its arguments in support of its plan, saying:

"The [Amended Settlement Agreement] reflects the results of two years of heavily debated, arms-length negotiation by the parties best suited to resolve the relevant issues, including further negotiations after the settlement was initially presented for approval."

It is in no doubt about the seriousness of the hearing:

"The benefits of approval are bounded only by the limits of human creativity and imagination. The costs of disapproval are equally large."

In total, 26 separate organisations are due to speak about the settlement. Among them is the Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic) which will step in front of the judge and say the settlement:

"threatens well-established standards that safeguard intellectual freedom."

The row over Google Books has also divided authors. Many have let the Authors Guild speak for them but others are keen to make their voices heard.

Veteran fiction writer Ursula K Le Guin resigned from the Authors Guild after 37 years as a member in protest at its signing up with Google. She has rallied 367 authors to sign a letter that will be read out in court. She wrote:

"But we cannot have free and open dissemination of information and literature unless the use of written material continues to be controlled by those who write it or own legitimate right in it."

Writing in Newsweek, Nick Summers rolls the troubles surrounding Google Books in with some of the other mis-steps (Buzz) that the search giant has made.

"Google still has a launch-first-ask-questions-later culture of innovation, one that inevitably overlooks privacy and other concerns as engineers race their ideas to market."

A twist to the tale is added by Gene Quinn at IP Watchdog who noticed that Google has been awarded a patent for a system that could be applied to any text viewable via the digital library.

"Google gives us a glimpse at the possible future of Google Books, which can censor books it serves based on the copyright laws of the location from which you access the Internet."

Links in full

google booksGoogle Books
ScribdBrief of Google inc. in support of motion for final approval
EPICElectronic Information Privacy Centre | Google Books Settlement and Privacy
see alsoUrsula K Le Guin | Petition Concerning the Google Book Settlement
NewsweekNick Summers | Newsweek | Google Will Keep Playing Fast and Loose With Your Privacy
IP WatchdogGene Quinn | IP Watchdog | Google Books Patent Suggests Copyright Friendly Censorship

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