Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Judge Hears Arguments on Google Book Settlement

Federal judge Denny Chin heard more than four hours of testimony in a packed courtroom this week about the hotly contested class-action lawsuit filed against Google.

Supporters of a deal that would allow Google to create an extensive digital library and bookstore included the president of the National Federation of the Blind, a librarian at the University of Michigan, and a lawyer for Sony Electronics stated that the agreement would make millions of hard-to-find books available to an enormous audience.

A much larger group of opponents cited many concerns related to competition, privacy, violation of copyright and abuse of class-action processes. Law Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Pamela Samuelson says that her academic colleagues would prefer to have their books available via open access, and also supported open access to orphan works. She said "the authors Guild has not fairly represented academic authors."
“We think orphan works is a public policy issue to be decided by Congress,” she said. She mentioned that she had asked for “meaningful constraints” on pricing subscriptions. And, while not responding directly to University of Michigan Librarian Courant, she offered a contrasting perspective: “for plaintiffs, books are commodities. For academics, books are a slow form of social dialog."

See more in The New York Times and a February 12th presentation , "How Fair is the Google Book Search Settlement" by Berkeley law professor Pamela Samuelson.