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Google books settlement is delayed until "significant changes" are made

September 24, 2009 |  6:25 pm

The millions of out-of-print books scanned by Google Inc. and now sitting unread on the company's cyber-bookshelves will have to sit a while longer.

A New York judge on Thursday ordered the postponement of a longstanding October hearing meant to address a settlement between Google and a group of authors and publishers that sued the company more than four years ago.

In response to concerns raised by federal antitrust regulators, the Authors Guild and the Assn. of American Publishers are likely to make "significant changes to the current settlement agreement," wrote Judge Denny Chin. Holding a hearing on the agreement as currently written, he concluded, would make little sense.

Earlier this week, the publisher and author groups requested a delay in the proceedings so they could address copyright and antitrust issues raised by the Department of Justice in a brief filed last week.

That brief, which called the agreement "one of the most far-reaching class-action settlements of which the United States is aware," cautioned the court not to act hastily given the complexity and import of the issues, but also acknowledging the "public benefit" of a vast database of easily accessible books.

In a statement issued after the order was released, Google did not object to the delay of the hearing.

Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group that has been an active opponent of the terms of the settlement, praised the delay, noting that "the proper place to solve many of the case's thorniest problems ... is in Congress," not the courts.

There will be a status hearing Oct. 7, when the court will discuss how to "proceed with the case as expeditiously as possible."

-- David Sarno


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