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Google Books agreement revised: no exclusive rights for 'orphan works'

From The New York Times: Google and groups representing book publishers and authors filed a modified version of their controversial books settlement with a federal court on Friday. The changes would pave the way for other companies to license Google’s vast digital collection of copyrighted out-of-print books, and might resolve its conflicts with European governments.

The revisions to the settlement primarily address the handling of so-called orphan works, the millions of books whose rights holders are unknown or cannot be found. The changes call for the appointment of an independent fiduciary, or trustee, who will be solely responsible for decisions regarding orphan works. [17nov09]

The trustee, with Congressional approval, can grant licenses to other companies who also want to sell these books, and will oversee the pool of unclaimed funds that they generate. If the money goes unclaimed for 10 years, according to the revised settlement, it will go to philanthropy and to an effort to locate rights holders.

[...]

Critics of the [initial] agreement began surfacing earlier this year. Academics, legal scholars and some librarians grew concerned that the settlement would grant Google a virtual monopoly over orphan works.

That would make it nearly impossible for anyone else to build a comprehensive digital library to compete with Google’s. Some librarians feared that without competition, Google would be free to raise prices arbitrarily.

Read full article here.

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