Comments on Google Book Search Settlement Coming to a Head (Again)

Ah, it is the beginning of September when thoughts turn to going back to school, the days turn a little colder (in the northern hemisphere) and the smell of lawsuit briefs is in the air. Well, okay — the latter might not be what you expect, but this is a special September, after all. Postponed from MayL1, the deadline for filing comments in the Google Book Search settlement is coming up. And everyone is weighing in (”again” for some) on the details of the settlement. A couple of highlights.

The American Library Association (ALA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL)L2 again offered its support for the settlement, if only the court would promise to extend vigorous oversight of pricing and privacy practices of Google and the Books Rights Registry. This came in the form of a supplemental filingL3 to the briefL4 the three organizations filed in MayL5 (just prior to the first comment deadline).

Google Search for Open Book AllianceL6

Google Search for Open Book Alliance

An odd group of bedfellows has also gotten togetherL7 to oppose the settlement. Called the “Open Book AllianceL8“, it is made up of (at the moment): AmazonL9, the American Society of Journalists and AuthorsL10, the Council of Literary Magazines and PressesL11, the Internet ArchiveL12, MicrosoftL13, the New York Library AssociationL14, the Small Press DistributionL15, the Special Libraries AssociationL16, and Yahoo!L17. Sound vaguely familiar? That’s understandable; if you match up the interested parties of the OBA with the OCA (the Open Content AllianceL18), you’ll find Microsoft, the Internet Archive, and Yahoo in common. A search for “Open Book Alliance” in Google, in fact, still brings up the “Open Content Alliance” as the top hit. The biggest new party, Amazon, to the formation of this group (or reconstitution, if you will) is undoubtedly the inspiration behind a press release from the Authors Guild (a party in the settlement agreement) with a biting title: Amazon Accuses Someone Else of Monopolizing BooksellingL19.Lest you think the fun be over too soon, the deadline for filing briefs has been extendedL20 yet again from close of business tomorrow (Friday, September 4th, 2009) until 10:00am Tuesday. Apparently, the court’s electronic filing system will be unavailable from 2pm today until 8am on Tuesday the 8th. The main settlement websiteL21 says explicitly that the deadline for rights holders to opt out of the settlement remains September 4th.

But seriously, if you are looking for thoughtful commentary on the commentary, I recommend James Grimmelmann’s blog, The LaboratoriumL22. Although there isn’t a single page that brings together all of his postings about the Google Book Search settlement, he helpfully prepends “GBS:” to the title of all such postings. If you are looking to participate in the discussion surrounding the settlement, the best place I know of is the interactive version of the settlement noticeL23 hosted at The Public Index. There you can comment and watch the comments of others on a section-by-section basis, along with a catalog of documents and linksL24 from others regarding the settlement.

The next big event after the filing deadline is the Final Fairness Hearing, scheduled for 10am on October 7, 2009 (or, at least, scheduled for that day and time at the moment). At the fairness hearing, we get to hear from the the court as it considers whether to grant final approval of the Settlement. Somehow, though, I don’t think even that will be close to the final word on the settlement. Stay tuned…