“The public interest would best be served by direction from the court encouraging the continuation of settlement discussions between the parties,” according to the brief filed late Thursday in Manhattan federal court.
The Justice Department praised the parties for their progress in hammering out an agreement, but said the new settlement “suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation.”
The Justice Department in September 2009 submitted its views on the original proposed amendment agreement, suggesting that the parties consider changes to the agreement “that might help the United States’ concerns, including imposing limitations on the most open-ended provisions for future licensing, eliminating potential conflicts among class members, providing additional protections for unknown rights holders,” and other issues.
The department says the amended settlement “still confers significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages on Google as a single entity, thereby enabling the company to be the only competitor in the digital marketplace with the rights to distribute and otherwise exploit a vast array of works in multiple formats.”
The department added that it is “committed to continuing to work with the parties and other stakeholders to help develop solutions through which copyright holders could allow for digital use of their works by Google and others, whether through legislative or market-based activities.”
The Authors Guild and five major publishers sued Google for copyright infringement in 2005 after Google began digitally scanning library books to make them searchable on the Internet.
The parties settled in October 2008. Under the agreement, Google would be allowed to scan books and sell the digital content, keeping 37 percent of the revenue while authors and publishers would split the rest.
A fairness hearing on the amended settlement is set for Feb. 18.
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