Google prepared to compromise on digital books deal

Undaunted by widespread opposition, Google is pressing ahead with its plans to create a vast digital library, following a cautiously positive response from the Justice Department.

In a filing late Friday, the Justice Department said that the deal was unacceptable in its present form, but that the parties concerned were modifying the agreement to appease some of its critics. The move is likely to cause delays.

“We are considering the points raised by the department and look forward to addressing them as the court proceedings continue,” said Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers in a joint statement.

The Department acknowledged in its filing that the deal would give Google a virtually exclusive license to millions of books which are either out of print or whose rights holders are unknown – so-called ‘orphan books’.

But it said that the deal would have great benefits, and that it hoped it could be amended to make it fairer – for example, by giving some of Google’s competitors access to these same orphan books. It also said that Google could improve matters by securing agreement from the rights holders for out-of-print books, rather than being allowed to go ahead by default.

“As a threshold matter, the central difficulty that the Proposed Settlement seeks to overcome – the inaccessibility of man works due to the lack of clarity about copyright ownership and copyright status – is a matter of public, not merely private, concern,” writes the Deaprtment in its filing. “A global disposition of the rights to millions of copyrighted works is typically the kind of policy change implemented through legislation, not through a private judicial settlement.”

A hearing has been lined up for 7 October.

See also:
States object to digital books settlement too
What’s wrong with a Google virtual library?