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Privacy & Data

Update in Google Books Lawsuit

Earlier today, Judge Denny Chin approved an aggressive schedule for the parties in the Google Books lawsuit to submit an amended settlement agreement. Michael Boni, speaking for all parties, indicated that the parties have been hard at work since the Department of Justice raised concerns about the original settlement (arrived at after years of negotiation), and that a revised settlement will be ready in early November. Judge Chin consequently set a deadline of November 9. While no other court dates were set, the parties did indicate that the deadline for rightsholders to claim their copyright interest in works that Google has scanned would be extended from January 5, 2010 to June 5, 2010.

Boni argued that extensive additional notice to the class of rightsholders will not be necessary, as the amendments will all benefit the class. Based on this, he asserted the parties’ desire to have a final fairness hearing-formerly scheduled for today-in late December or early January. It will be interesting to see if Judge Chin agrees upon seeing the revised settlement, especially since much of the commentary on the settlement, including that of the DOJ, has raised questions about the adequacy of the prior notice to the class members, given the sheer size of the class.

There was little indication of the substance of the amendments, but it is clear that the parties’ focus is on the DOJ’s concerns. Interestingly, a DOJ representative indicated that his office had not yet seen any revisions, but he did confirm discussions with the parties. Paul Aiken of the Authors Guild, speaking to the New York Times, indicated that the changes would be narrowly focused and minor.

CDT supports the settlement but believes it raises significant privacy concerns. As indicated in our joint letter to Google yesterday, would like to see Google strengthen its commitment to reader privacy given the additional time, and to make those privacy commitments enforceable by the court. We will continue to monitor the progress of the settlement and the extent to which Google addresses privacy as part of any new submission to the court. In July, we released an extensive analysis of the privacy concerns raised by the proposed settlement, and in September we filed a "friend of the court" brief urging the court to impose privacy requirements on Google. We hope that we do not need to renew our request to the court, but we will do so if needed.