Adding another chapter to the ongoing (not to say epic) saga of Google’s attempt to build the world’s largest digital library, Judge Denny Chin has rejected the settlement that would have granted the company the right to continue digitizing out of print books, and to offer excerpts of books’ contents even if those books were under copyright and Google had not secured permission from copyright holders.
“While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far,” a court document explains. “It would permit this class action “ which was brought against defendant Google Inc. to challenge its scanning of books and display of ‘snippets’ for on-line searching “ to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA (Amended Settle Agreement) [sic] would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.”
The Google settlement was a response to a class action suit launched in 2005 claiming that many of the books the company had digitized were under copyright. Google’s rampant digitization of books also drew the attention of the European Union and the U.S. Department of Justice, which claimed that it contravened American antitrust laws. According to CNET, Google Books has already digitized some 12 million titles since it launched in 2004.