Delay Sought for Google Settlement

Adrian Versteegh

Four days after the Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended that a federal court in New York City reject the proposed Google Book Search settlement, the parties involved are asking for time to amend the agreement. The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP), with support from Google, filed a motion yesterday seeking to postpone a hearing originally scheduled for October 7.

Noting the approximately four hundred statements—both for and against the settlement—filed so far with the court, as well as the ongoing investigation by the Antitrust Division of the DOJ, the motion concedes that the Google settlement will not be approved without revision. “To continue on the current schedule,” reads a memorandum attached to the request, “would put the Court in a position of reviewing and having participants at the hearing speak to the original Settlement Agreement, which will not be the subject of a motion for final approval.” Instead, the plaintiffs are asking that next month’s hearing be canceled in favor of holding a “status conference” on November 6. The court is expected to grant the request.

In its objections last Friday, the DOJ warned that the pricing terms outlined in the settlement could be “inconsistent” with existing antitrust law. It also stressed that any final agreement would have to make books available in “multiple, standard, open formats supported by a wide variety of different applications, devices, and screens.”

The $125 million settlement, reached last November, is the result of a 2005 class action lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild and the AAP against Google and its ambitious book-scanning initiative. Industry professionals have been divided over how the proposed arrangement will affect authors, publishers, and readers.