Objections and Responses to the Google Books Settlement: A Report

Intellectual Property and Copyright and Trademark

Article Snapshot


James Grimmelmann


NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09/10 #39


This report analyzes the objections to the original proposed settlement in the Authors Guild v. Google litigation.

Policy Relevance

This article summarizes the relevant objections and gives a brief response to each objection.

Main Points

  • Google Books is an online collection of scanned books that is searchable by users.  A class action lawsuit was filed against Google on behalf of all copyright holders claiming that this use of their works infringed their copyrights.
  • A settlement was proposed that would allow Google Books to continue to scan and use copyrighted works on a number of conditions, including allowing copyright holders to opt out and paying copyright holders a portion of the add revenue generated.
  • Many objections have been made to the proposed settlement, and these objections identify 76 distinct issues, which can then be grouped into 11 different categories.

    • Definitions – objections have been raised as to the way the settlement defines certain terms, such as “insert” and “book.”
    • Fairness to Right Holders – many objections allege that copyright holders are not getting enough out of the settlement.
    • International Issues – some objections focus on the potential international issues, such as the fact that international copyright holders will be unable to register under the current settlement.
    • Jurisdictional Issues – there are some objections that the court may lack jurisdiction under the constitution.
    • Class Action Procedure – the settlement is of a broad scope that may be outside the bounds of what is normally allowed for a class action settlement.
    • Registry – the settlement creates a registry for copyright holders who wish to collect ad money from Google.  The limitations and structure of the registry has also been objected to.
    • Institutional Subscription – the cost of Google Books to libraries and companies is still unknown and it has been suggested that this should have been specified in the settlement.
    • Antitrust – because the settlement applies to all copyright holders it creates set prices across the board, which may violate anticompetitive laws.
    • Privacy – if Google Books becomes widely used, then Google will have access to private information about users, such as what books they read and when.
    • Copyright Policy – the settlement sets a new precedent for dealing with copyrights, and, because the settlement was made by the parties to the case, may not fully consider underlying policy issues.
    • Information Policy – again, having been made by the parties, the settlement may not adequately address underlying policy concerns dealing with Google’s power over the vast amounts of information it has and will amass.

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