On March 22 Judge Chin, for the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, rejected the settlement among the parties in The Author’s Guild et al. v. Google Inc. In his opinion, he stated that,
While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the [Amended Settlement Agreement] ASA would simply go too far. 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 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 announcement of Judge Chin’s decision is just in time for March Madness. If you recall, the Library Copyright Alliance’s legal consultant on copyright, Jonathan Band, devised a handy GBS March Madness chart (pdf) last year at this time depicting the possible paths forward with the settlement. So now, perhaps we’ve reached the “Final Four?” Potential options for moving forward include: 1) appealing the decision, 2) negotiating a new agreement, 3) moving forward with litigation, or 4) walking away.
It’s too early to speculate with some certainty what will happen next. In the meantime the American Library Association, along with Association of College and Research Libraries and the Association of Research Libraries, are working on a brief analysis of the Judge’s decision that will be made available soon.