Friday, February 19, 2010

Judge Chin Put Off

The Google search engine receives about a billion search requests per day

Over the past few months I've been watching the Google Books brouhaha over their digital book settlement to create the world's largest on-line library. At the center of the fray sits U.S.District Judge Denny Chin, who said during Thursday's hearing, that he did not know when he would issue a ruling on the proposed settlement, which has already been revised once to satisfy concerns raised by the Justice Department. Chin said he had received volumes of comments from the public that merited careful consideration.

As an writer with a published work coming out soon, and a someone who's grown up in Silicon Valley and reviews technology and innovation for a living, I'm stuck in the middle -- I believe an author's works should be protected, while I love the fact that books live on via technologocial advances, like Google Books, on-line.

During a marathon hearing before Judge Chin, lawyers representing the Justice Department, children's book authors, privacy advocates and business competitors said Google's agreement with some authors and publishers should be rejected because it would violate copyright laws. The opponents also argued that the $125 million settlement -- which would allow Google to scan and publish millions of out-of-print titles -- could give the company an unfair edge over other online publishers in the nascent but exploding market for digital books.

While Judge Chin did not offer clear guidance into his thinking during the hearing, several lawyers said subtle clues could be drawn from his questions. The sometimes impatient judge took many notes and asked lawyers for Google and its settlement partners -- the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers -- about a controversial portion of the settlement that would automatically include the holders of rights to titles unless they voluntarily opt out of the program.

The judge also asked about so-called orphan works, whose authors and rights holders can't be found. Google and its critics have sparred over how many books fall into that category, with estimates from a few million to tens of millions of titles. Google has said it would try to find rights holders of these works, but critics say the deal is designed to give Google exclusive rights to these works and protect it from lawsuits from rights holders.

So, now we wait and see what judge Chin has to say...

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