Objections and Responses to the Google Books Settlement: A Report

Article Source: NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09/10 #39
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This report analyzes the objections to the original proposed settlement in the Authors Guild v. Google litigation.


Policy Relevance:

This article summarizes the relevant objections and gives a brief response to each objection.


Key Takeaways:
  • Google Books is an online collection of scanned books that is searchable by users. A class action lawsuit was filed against Google on behalf of all copyright holders claiming that this use of their works infringed their copyrights.
  • A settlement was proposed that would allow Google Books to continue to scan and use copyrighted works on a number of conditions, including allowing copyright holders to opt out and paying copyright holders a portion of the add revenue generated.
  • Many objections have been made to the proposed settlement, and these objections identify 76 distinct issues, which can then be grouped into 11 different categories.

    • Definitions – objections have been raised as to the way the settlement defines certain terms, such as “insert” and “book.”
    • Fairness to Right Holders – many objections allege that copyright holders are not getting enough out of the settlement.
    • International Issues – some objections focus on the potential international issues, such as the fact that international copyright holders will be unable to register under the current settlement.
    • Jurisdictional Issues – there are some objections that the court may lack jurisdiction under the constitution.
    • Class Action Procedure – the settlement is of a broad scope that may be outside the bounds of what is normally allowed for a class action settlement.
    • Registry – the settlement creates a registry for copyright holders who wish to collect ad money from Google. The limitations and structure of the registry has also been objected to.
    • Institutional Subscription – the cost of Google Books to libraries and companies is still unknown and it has been suggested that this should have been specified in the settlement.
    • Antitrust – because the settlement applies to all copyright holders it creates set prices across the board, which may violate anticompetitive laws.
    • Privacy – if Google Books becomes widely used, then Google will have access to private information about users, such as what books they read and when.
    • Copyright Policy – the settlement sets a new precedent for dealing with copyrights, and, because the settlement was made by the parties to the case, may not fully consider underlying policy issues.
    • Information Policy – again, having been made by the parties, the settlement may not adequately address underlying policy concerns dealing with Google’s power over the vast amounts of information it has and will amass.



James Grimmelmann

About James Grimmelmann

James Grimmelmann is Professor of Law at Cornell Tech and Cornell Law School. He studies how the law governing the creation and use of computer software affects individual freedom and the distribution of wealth and power in society. As a lawyer and technologist, he helps these two groups understand each other by writing about copyright and digitization, the regulation of search engines, privacy on social networks, and other topics in computer and Internet law. He teaches courses in property, intellectual property, and Internet law.