Judge rejects Google’s plans for world’s biggest library

Google’s attempt to create a massive digital library has been stymied by a New York federal judge, who’s rejected the deal struck between the company and groups representing authors and publishers.

Judge Denny Chin said that the elaborate $125 million legal settlement which Google had worked out with the the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers was not ‘fair, adequate and easonable’ and gave Google a de facto monopoly.

Scott Turow, president of the Authors Guild, describes the proposed library as an ‘Alexandria of out-of-print books’, and says he’s disappointed by the decision.

“We’ll be studying Judge Chin’s decision and plan on talking to the publishers and Google with the hope that we can arrive at a settlement within the court’s parameters that makes sense for all parties,” he says.

“There has to be a way to make this happen. It’s a top priority for the Authors Guild.”

But there is still hope. In his conclusion, Judge Chin says: “Many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA [the Amended Settlement Agreement] were converted from an ‘opt-out’ settlement to an ‘opt-in’ settlement.”

And the Association of American Publishers says that this is likely to be the way forward.

“While the March 22 decision of US District Court Judge Denny Chin on the Google Book Settlement Agreement that was filed on November 13, 2009 is not the final approval we were hoping for, it provides clear guidance to all parties as to what modifications are necessary for its approval,” says John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan on behalf of the group.

“The publisher plaintiffs are prepared to enter into a narrower Settlement along those lines to take advantage of its groundbreaking opportunities. We hope the other parties will do so as well.”

Google’s already scanned over 15 million books and has made them available on its Google Book Search service. The new settlement would have expanded this enormously to include millions more out-of-print books.

The problem with altering the agreement to make it opt-in is that it would mean that books whose copyright owner is impossible to locate – so-called ‘orphan books’ – would have to be excluded.