UPDATE 2-Authors seek delay in Google books settlement

Tue Sep 22, 2009 5:04pm EDT

Related Topics

* Request for delay is unopposed

* Google, others say will address Justice Dept concerns (Adds comment from critics, expert, background)

NEW YORK, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Authors and publishers asked a U.S. judge on Tuesday to delay a hearing on whether to approve a controversial settlement that would allow Google Inc (GOOG.O) to create a massive online digital library.

The request by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers was unopposed by Google and follows a U.S. Justice Department filing on Friday that urged District Judge Denny Chin to reject the deal.

The settlement is an effort to resolve a 2005 lawsuit over Google's plan, and a hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7

The authors and publishers said the parties wanted to work with the Justice Department to resolve its concerns. They requested a Nov. 6 status hearing in the case.

Google agreed with the delay request. "We are considering the points raised by the Department of Justice and others, and we look forward to addressing them as the court proceedings continue," it said in a statement.

Critics of the deal, including the Open Book Alliance, which includes Google's tech rival Microsoft (MSFT.O) and the Internet Archive, which is also scanning books, were thrilled.

The alliance said the delay request was an enormous loss for Google, which had been saying for months that no changes were necessary to the settlement. "Now, that settlement, as we know it, is dead," the group said in an emailed statement.

But antitrust attorney Evan Stewart, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, said it was more likely that Google was trying to resolve issues to have the Justice Department be either supportive or neutral on the matter.

"It seems like they're trying to get this deal done and seems from a business standpoint that it's a good thing for them to do," Stewart said.

The Justice Department said in its filing on Friday that the court should encourage the parties to modify the settlement so that it complies with copyright and antitrust laws.

For example, the Justice Department said the settlement appeared to give book publishers the power to restrict price competition and would give Google "de facto exclusivity" in distribution of orphan works, books which are in copyright but the rights holder cannot be located.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, Google will pay $125 million to create a Book Rights Registry, where authors and publishers register works and are paid for books and other publications that the search giant would put online.

The case is Authors Guild et al v Google Inc 05-08136 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan). (Reporting by Grant McCool and Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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