Late last year, Google announced that it had reached a settlement with several major publishers that would end their copyright lawsuit against the Google Books service. The settlement would put in place an agreement between Google and existing copyright holders, and give the search giant rights to out-of-print and orphaned works—those for which the copyright holder cannot be identified. Despite the complexity of the settlement, it was on a fast track to approval, with a final thumbs-up scheduled for May. Now, it looks like a delay in the decision is inevitable, as opposition to it seems to be rising and the Department of Justice is looking into the antitrust implications of the deal.
So, for example, the agreement as structured could essentially turn Google into the sole rightsholder for orphaned works, which would mean that anyone would have to negotiate with the company over the use of these works. Other objections focus on the fact that Google could control the sale and distribution of out-of-print works, even if the original author decided to release it under a more liberal license. Other recent objections suggest that the settlement, by giving the search giant control of how the out-of-print works are displayed, could allow the company to censor and selectively display these works, based on community standards or political concerns.
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