On Tuesday, a New York federal judge rejected Google’s settlement with authors and publishers to digitize books and make them freely available. Judge David Chin said that the agreement would have “granted Google a ‘de facto monopoly’ and the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners”.
Legally, it seems the largest factor for rejection of the settlement is its inclusion of orphan works, which are books whose rights holders are unknown. Judge Chin implied that if the settlement was amended and limited only to books that authors or publishers opted in, then the majority of legal obstacles would be removed. Google argues that leaving orphan works out of the agreement would significantly diminish the value of their digital library, both to the company and the public. Pamela Samuelson, a copyright expert at UC Berkeley who has worked to prevent the settlement, commented that “even though it is efficient for Google to make all the books available, the orphan works and unclaimed books problem should be addressed by Congress, not by the private settlement of a lawsuit.”
I have absolutely no familiarity with copyright law but, in my inexperienced opinion, Ms. Samuelson’s statement sounds spot on. What do you think?
Clearly, this ruling can also open a discussion on rare books and the trade in general; please post any ideas, opinions, etc.