Business, Economics and Jobs

Google loses decision on digital library and bookstore



Johannes Eisele

Google's plan to create the world's largest digital library — a pet project of Larry Page, the Google co-founder — has been shelved owing to copyright.

A federal judge in New York rejected a $125 million legal settlement that Google had worked out with representatives of authors and publishers, allowing for the scanning of every book ever published, with titles then made available through an online bookstore.

Google promotes the Google Book Settlement on its Google Books page as "with a broad class of authors and publishers to make the world's books even more accessible online."

Citing copyright, antitrust and other concerns, Judge Denny Chin said the settlement would have granted Google a ''de facto monopoly'' and the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

''The creation of a universal digital library would benefit many'' he said, but the proposed agreement was ''not fair, adequate and reasonable.'' 

Soon after Chin rejected the proposed settlement, publishers and the Authors Guild said they were open to narrowing the scope of the proposed settlement in order to get a revised deal approved, while Google said it “would consider its options,” according to Publishers Weekly.

Google went public with its aim to "democratize knowledge" by scanning 129,864,880 books at last count, according to Google (it has scanned about 12 million so far), in 2004, triggering several domestic and international lawsuits.

New York Law School professor James Grimmelmann outlined in his blog three scenarios: the parties could appeal Chin’s ruling; they could redraft the settlement, along lines suggested by Chin; or they could litigate. "If I had to bet, I would guess that we’ll end up with a revised settlement drafted to meet Judge Chin’s specification,” Grimmelmann wrote.

According to Ken Auletta, the author of "Googled: The End of the World as We Know I," quoted in the SMH, ''It was very much consistent with Larry's idealism that all of the world's information should be made available freely." Larry Page is set to become Google's chief executive next month.