* Judge sets timeline for digital book settlement review
* Google, authors, publishers discussing changes
* U.S. Justice Dept has not seen proposed changes (Adds Authors Guild lawyer, Justice Department, background, byline)
By Grant McCool
NEW YORK, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Changes to a settlement that would allow Google Inc (GOOG.O) to put millions of books online should be presented in court by Nov. 9, the judge presiding over the case said on Wednesday.
Google’s plan to create a massive digital library has been praised for bringing broad access to books but has also been criticized on antitrust, copyright and privacy grounds.
The settlement is an effort to resolve a 2005 lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild and others against Google’s effort to scan libraries full of books. In that suit, authors and publishers had accused Google of copyright infringement.
Judge Denny Chin, of Manhattan federal court, said he hoped the parties would file a motion for preliminary approval of the amended deal by Nov. 9 so a hearing could be held in late December or early January for final approval.
“I like the target date of early November. Targeting the changes is the right way to do it,” Chin said during a 15-minute long conference in court with lawyers for the parties and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Under the terms of the original settlement, Google would pay $125 million to create a Book Rights Registry. Authors and publishers could register works there and be paid for books and other publications that the search giant would put online. Google has already digitized 10 million books.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice urged Chin to reject the settlement. There was a “significant potential,” it said, that the department’s antitrust division would eventually decide the settlement broke antitrust law.
The division expressed concern that the deal would give publishers the ability to restrict price competition and that Google would have the de facto right to distribute books which are in copyright but whose authors cannot be found.
Justice Department lawyer William Cavanaugh told the judge on Wednesday that the division had not seen any proposed settlement changes, while lawyers for Google and the Authors Guild said they expected to be able to present an amended agreement.
“We have been working around the clock and we have gone a long way to identifying and negotiating amendments to the settlement,” Authors Guild lawyer Michael Boni said.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said the Justice Department criticisms seem reasonable and the search engine giant is amenable to a few minor changes.
German book publishers are up in arms about the deal, and on Sept. 24 they criticized European regulators for failing to take a stand against the settlement.
Also last month, French publishing house La Martiniere, the French Publishers’ Association and authors’ group SGDL asked a Paris court to fine Google 15 million euros ($22 million) and 100,000 euros for each day it continues to violate copyright by digitizing their books.
The U.S. case is Authors Guild et al v Google Inc, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), No. 05-08136. (Reporting by Grant McCool and Diane Bartz, additional reporting by Anupreeta Das; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)