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Authors get extension in Google Books Settlement

By Richard Koman
ZDNet Government
April 28, 2009 @ 9:58 PM
A victory for authors in the Google Book Deal: Judge Denny Chin has extended the deadline (court order) for class members to opt out four months, until Sept. 4.

That makes the representatives and heirs of John Steinbeck, Philip K. Dick and Woody Guthrie very happy. There was no doubt there was going to be an extension, since Google had also asked for an extension, although only for two months.

A big reason for the extension is to give the Class time provide notice to all the affected authors. Remember - as Cory points out - the Class isnít just the few authors represented by the Authorís Guild:

[It's] all literary copyright holders, even the authors of the millions of "orphan works" whose rightsholders canít be located. Once that class was certified, whatever deal Google struck with the class became binding on every work of literature ever produced.

The authors say they need additional time to review the massive settlement. Itís not just massive, itís "unprecedented," the authors' lawyers say:

For authors who do not opt out, the settlement if approved would impose a complex scheme for the wholesale allocation of rights and remedies, and compensation for exploitation of those rights, in the digital world. And it would cement that scheme in perpetuity in an area of commerce that has seen explosive growth in just the last five years, and that may well proved to be the most important and valuable channel for the distribution and exploitation of creative works.

So, the settlement is big, complex and profound. But from a legal standpoint, itís also incredibly vague, the authors said. Vague enough that Marybeth Peters, the head of the Copyright Office, said:

Iím still struggling to understand what the settlement really says . . . Thereís a lot of questions. Thereís a lot of terms that seem ambiguous to me.

Weíll see what the four month extension does for clarity on these points, but it would be nice to see large numbers of brand-name authors taking a pass on this settlement.

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