Monday 20 May 2019

Google clears digital library hurdle

Proposed digital books library: Google. Photo: Bloomberg News
Proposed digital books library: Google. Photo: Bloomberg News

Garry White

Google and a group of publishers and authors have agreed to scale back the scope of their proposed digital books library, which could resolve a legal dispute and clear the way for millions of books to be sold online.

A revised 370-page settlement was submitted to a US judge on Saturday, which sought to address the Department of Justice's initial objections.

The book-scanning project "has the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits", the Department of Justice said, but it objected to the original settlement on copyright and anti-trust grounds.

A number of countries including France and Germany had objected to the reach of the deal, covering millions of out-of-print books published around the world. The international scope of the agreement is now limited to books published in the US, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

The original draft settlement would have given Google sole authority over "orphan works", or out-of-print books whose copyright holder cannot be found. The settlement only covers access through Google's US website.

It is proposed that unclaimed proceeds from orphan works be used to try to locate absent rights holders and be held for at least 10 years before being distributed to literacy-based charities in the US, Canada, the UK and Australia.

US Judge Denny Chin is expected to hold a so-called "fairness hearing" in February on whether or not to approve the settlement.

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