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Google gets extension to negotiate book scanning settlement

A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] on Tuesday extended settlement negotiations for an additional two months in The Authors Guild et al v. Google Inc. [case materials], a copyright suit filed in 2005 over a Google [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] initiative to scan and catalog books [Google Book Search website] to make them more accessible online. Google and the Authors Guild [advocacy website], a group representation authors and publishers, also received an extension at the beginning of June [Bloomberg report], leading to Tuesday's conference. Judge Denny Chin set a hearing for September 15 and stated that if a reasonable settlement is not reached the parties will go to trial [Bloomberg report]. He also suggested focusing negotiations on an "opt-in" function [NYLJ report] for authors rather than "opt-out." A settlement was reached in March 2009 [JURIST report], but Chin rejected it, partially for allowing authors' silence to operate as an automatic opt-in to the program.

The first settlement agreement was reached [JURIST report] in October 2008, and arguments on the ASA were heard in February 2010, after which Chin announced that he would delay ruling [JURIST report] on the proposed settlement. Earlier that month the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a statement of interest [JURIST report] urging the court to reject the settlement due to copyright and antitrust concerns, and stating that the agreement would provide Google with "anticompetitive advantages" with potentially monopolistic effects. The DOJ's statement of interest was filed after an official inquiry, which was announced [JURIST report] six months after the original settlement agreement was reached. Meanwhile, concerns had been raised in the European Union and elsewhere that Google's book-scanning initiative violated national copyright laws, especially in France where a Parisian court fined Google [JURIST report] €300,000 (USD $430,000) for digitizing books and making excerpts available on the web. The Authors Guild represents several major publishing companies, including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) [association website], McGraw-Hill, Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster [corporate websites].

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