U.S. Official Pans Settlement Over Google Book Project

September 11, 2009

The U.S. government's top copyright official criticized the settlement between Google and copyright holders over the company's controversial Google Books project, saying the arrangement is "not a settlement at all" but an "end run around legislative process and prerogatives" that could "dramatically compromise the legal rights" of authors and publishers. "Allowing Google to continue to scan millions of books into the future, on a rolling schedule with no deadline, is tantamount to creating a private compulsory license through the judiciary," Marybeth Peters, register of copyrights in the U.S. Copyright Office, said in testimony before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Thursday. "This is not to say that a compulsory license or collective license for book digitization projects may or may not be an interesting idea. Rather, our point is that such decisions are the domain of Congress and must be weighed openly and deliberately, and with a clear sense of both the beneficiaries and the public objective." A federal judge is weighing arguments, including some from faculty and other academic groups, in deciding whether to approve the settlement announced in 2005. Thursday's hearing also included witnesses from Google, Amazon, the University of Chicago and the National Federation for the Blind; all of the testimony can be found here.

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