Judge shelves Google Books settlement

The Google search page appears on a computer screen in Washington on Aug. 30, 2010.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: A federal judge out of Manhattan said no today to Google's plan to publish nearly every book online. Circuit Judge Denny Chin said the supposed 'universal library' would go too far and step on copyright protection for some of those books. Authors and publishers eventually settled with Google to offer the books online. But today's ruling sends throws a big literary wrench in all that.

Novelist Scott Turow is president of the Authors' Guild, which originally settled with Google to digitize scores of books online. And he's with us now from just outside of Chicago. Good morning.

SCOTT TUROW: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: The judge said that this settlement that the company reached with authors and publishers would grant Google a lot of rights to exploit entire books without permission or with deference to copyright. Do you agree with that?

TUROW: Well, the Authors' Guild sued Google for exactly that reason.

CHIOTAKIS: You settled with Google right?

TUROW: We settled with Google, and you know the fundamental difference between what Google was doing to start and what they were going to do under the settlement is that they were going to pay for that privileged. They were going to pay publishers and authors for the privileged of making their books available for search.

CHIOTAKIS: Do you think in the end everyone's going to be happy, the judge, the authors, Google?

TUROW: No I think actually, unfortunately, this is one of those decisions that leaves everybody unhappy. The out of print books are not accessible on anybody's computer screen under this decision. That means the publishers don't get paid, that means the authors don't get paid, that means given his correct decision that this arrangement violated copyright, that nobody can see those works unless they literally go to the library and take those books out. So I don't think its a good result for anybody, and nor do I think that the judge didn't understand that this is in theory a great idea.

CHIOTAKIS: Do we get to a good result though, do you think?

TUROW: I hope so, obviously, we thought we had reached the best accommodation of the competing interest. And Judge Chin didn't agree with us but he did agree that it would be a wonderful thing if we had this virtual Library of Alexandria, containing most of the books that are out of print and unavailable that have been published in the English language.

CHIOTAKIS: Scott Turow, president of the Authors' Guild. Scott thank you.

TUROW: Thank you very much Steve. Good to talk with you.


ORIGINAL REPORT FROM DAVID GURA

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The company wants to make every book in the world available online. But a federal judge said no. And rejected an agreement the Google made with authors and publishers.

Marketplace's David Gura reports.


DAVID GURA: When Google started Google Books, in 2004, there were concerns about copyright. The company wants to sell access to a giant, searchable online library. When groups representing authors and publishers took the company to court, the proceedings took an unexpected turn. They agreed to a settlement. Copyright holders would get the chance to opt out.

Jane Ginsburg is a law professor at Columbia.

JANE GINSBURG: It would've covered future scanning and put into place a very elaborate business model for the future exploitation of digitized books.

But not everyone liked that deal. The government opposed it. So did Microsoft and Amazon. Yesterday, a judge rejected the settlement. He said it would've given Google too much power. But James Grimmelmann, a professor at New York Law School, says there might be a third way.

GAMES GRIMMELMANN: It would be a deal extended, by Google, to anyone who is interested in signing up for it.

In other words, copyright holders could decide to opt in if they wanted their books online; rather than opt out, if they didn't.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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