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Google on hold

THE PROPOSED Google Books Settlement is on hold again. On 18 February Judge Denny Chin heard five-minute submissions from opponents - and from Google - in the Southern District Court of New York. He announced at the end of the day that he would defer judgement, without giving a date or indicating whether there would be a further hearing.

Judge Chin appeared, according to reports, to be taking seriously the objections by the US Department of Justice that the amended settlement agreement "suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation" and that it could violate "anti-trust" (American English for anti-monopoly) laws.

Associated Press reported Sarah Canzoneri, a member of the Children's Book Guild and one of those whose lawsuit against Google led to the proposed settlement, telling the court "It's not going to be a great library, it's going to be a great store." Andrew DeVore, representing folk singer Arlo Guthrie, said the library would exploit his clients with "woefully inadequate compensation" for "unknown and undisclosed uses".

Meanwhile, Google's troubles continue...

Evening Standard headline 24/02/10: 'Google bosses in privacy jail shock'

ER, ACTUALLY, no, it was a suspended sentence that three Italian executives of Google got, not precisely a "jail shock". They were convicted for failing to prevent someone posting video of abuse of a boy with Down's Syndrome to the YouTube site - now owned by Google. See rather calmer coverage from The Register.

They could, of course, go to jail if they fail to prevent someone else uploading something else. And if this is allowed to set a precedent in Italian law it'll be lethal to freedom of expression in all sorts of ways - starting with the Freelance going to jail for describing a publisher as "thieving Untermenschen with the morals of starving jackdaws" (which temptation we shall resist).

The Commission is coming...

Also on 24 February, the European Commission's competition (anti-monopoly) unit announced that it was formally investigating Google's position in the online advertising market, which is on the face of it, in the EU competition law jargon, dominant.

This is a move that Microsoft has been pushing rather heavily for the past nine months. Of course, Microsoft's business with the Competition Directorate isn't entirely finished...

Before we were interrupted...

Pamela Samuelson, Professor of Law at the University of California at Berkeley, made a submission to Judge Chin saying that the Google Books Settlement should not be agreed before the US Supreme Court rules in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnik.

That's the case over the payment of compensation to freelance writers by the New York Times and other publishers - including Reed-Elsevier - for selling their work online without permission. It started as Tasini v. Times when the then president of the National Writers Union and others sued the paper in 1995 and won in the Supreme Court in 2001.

Then California wrestling writer Irv Muchnik organised a challenge to the settlement of that case, saying there wasn't nearly enough money. That case wended its way to the Supreme Court, was heard there on 7 October 2009 and we're still waiting for the judgement. Whatever the judgement is, the case will go back to the New York court.

At a policy meeting on the Google settlement in London on 23 February, there was considerable (but unattributable) nervous laughter when Mike Holderness pointed out that it would equally take only one determined wrestling writer, or equivalent, to hold the Google settlement up for 15 years or longer.

2 March 2010

The Supreme Court has ruled on Tasini, again: the Settlement can include non-registered works.

Posted: 22 Feb 2010; Last modified: 4 Mar 2010; Posted 25 Feb 2010 - © 2009 contributors
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