updated 09:45 pm EDT, Thu September 24, 2009
Proceedings delayed indefinitely
The proposed settlement between Google and various publishing groups has been delayed while both sides attempt to renegotiate new terms, according to the New York Times. The settlement hearing was originally scheduled for October 7th, but US District Court Judge Denny Chin delayed the proceedings indefinitely.
"The current settlement agreement raises significant issues, as demonstrated not only by the number of objections, but also by the fact that the objectors include countries, states, non-profit organizations, and prominent authors and law professors," reads Judge Chin's order.
The plaintiffs oppose Google's plan to create an online Book Rights Registry. The system is designed to bring out-of-print content onto the Internet, including many books that can only be found in a small number of libraries.
"The proposed settlement would offer many benefits to society, as recognized by supporters of the settlement as well as DOJ," Judge Chin writes. "It would appear that if a fair and reasonable settlement can be struck, the public would benefit."
The plan has met with resistance from the Open Book Alliance, Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo, among others. The registry would allow Google to manage rights to digital versions of books, while enabling the search giant to publish content that lacks clear ownership. The opposition has voiced concern that the system could have a negative impact if Google retains too much power over online books.
Google argues that a large portion of the converted books have not been printed for many years. The company also feels its revenue sharing program should be well received by authors, who will receive 30 percent of the proceeds. Nonetheless, the court is said to have received over 400 filings that question various aspects of Google's proposal.
"Under all the circumstances, it makes no sense to conduct a hearing on the fairness and reasonableness of the current settlement agreement, as it does not appear that the current settlement will be the operative one," Chin's order reads.
The court will hold a status conference on October 7th in lieu of the settlement hearing. The meeting will help determine how to go forward "as expeditiously as possible," as the legal battle has already continued for more than four years.