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Judge sets November deadline for Googlebooks pact

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Google has until November 9 to revise its $125m book-scanning settlement with American authors and publishers.

According to the Associated Press, federal judge Denny Chin set the deadline after the parties involved in the settlement said they were working, uh, around the clock to complete a revision by early November.

A fairness hearing the controversial settlement was originally set for today, but after an investigation by the US Department of Justice, Chin postponed the hearing. Google and the plaintiffs in this four-year-old case have said they're working to bring the accord into line with changes suggested by the DoJ.

In the fall, Google settled a lawsuit from the US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over Google Book Search, a project that seeks to digitize millions of texts inside several of the world's leading research libraries. At the time, the Mountain View web giant had scanned more than 10 million books, and many are still under copyright. The deal creates a "Book Rights Registry" where copyright holders can resolve claims in exchange for a cut of Google's revenues.

But it also gives Google a unique right to digitize and sell and post ads against "orphan works," titles whose rights holders have not come forward. Other organizations could negotiate the rights to works in the Registry, but the Registry alone would have the power to set prices.

Opposition to the pact was widespread, with the most vocal objections tumbling from the Open Book Alliance, a collection of organizations including the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and Amazon. Though the Alliance is pleased as punch that the original settlement was not approved, it questions whether the DoJ's objections can be addressed before a November 9 deadline. The original settlement was 134 pages of legalese.

"Based on the court hearing today, one thing is clear - whatever revised settlement Google and its partners unveil on November 9th must be subject to full review and scrutiny by the vast array of stakeholders - authors, academics, consumer advocates, privacy groups, libraries, and others - who have spoken out," reads a statement from the Alliance.

"By their own admission, they have taken the deeply flawed original settlement off the table. So, any revisions to the settlement that would resolve the flaws identified by the Department of Justice and other objectors must be fundamental in scope. This is inconsistent with the timeline they proposed. This is not the time for shortcuts."

And regardless, the Internet Archive et al still prefer federal legislation to a Google-controlled civil settlement. "It’s also clear that the settlement partners have zero interest in creating an open process that takes input from critical stakeholders," the Internet Archive said.

"Instead, Google and its partners are serving their private business interests and ignoring the public interest. They came to the courtroom without a single concrete recommendation of how they would address any of the problems with the original settlement. Instead, they proposed more of the same - secret, back room negotiations - rather than an open, transparent and collaborative process." ®

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