Google Working to Revise Digital Books Settlement

Google Working to Revise Digital Books Settlement

The Justice Department’s filing on Friday, echoing other critics, said that the settlement could give Google a virtually exclusive license to millions of out-of-print “orphan books,” whose rights holders were unknown or cannot be found, making it impossible for anyone else to build a comparable digital library; the interests of some class members, including authors of orphan works and foreign authors, might not have been adequately represented; and the efforts to notify class members about the settlement might have been inadequate.

But unlike some of the more strident opponents, who have argued that the settlement is so flawed that it must be rejected, the Justice Department said it hoped the accord could be fixed so that its benefits — most notable the unprecedented access to millions of out-of-print books it would offer — could be achieved. And it said the parties appeared willing to make changes to address such concerns.

Laying out a path forward, the department said some of its antitrust concerns could be mitigated by “some mechanism by which Google’s competitors’ could gain comparable access to orphan works.” And it said that concerns about the fair representation of some authors could be addressed if some rights for Google to profit from out-of-print books were granted only if their authors agreed, rather than by default.

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