Google and publishers have told a US judge that they are close to settling a lawsuit over the internet giant’s controversial book-scanning scheme, but have agreed that the six-year old copyright infringement case will proceed to trial.
US District Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan approved a pre-trial schedule that calls for written submissions and depositions that extend into next summer, but he made it clear that he would prefer a settlement and offered to help the parties in their talks if it might help.
In the hearing Thursday morning, Judge Chin is said to have exasperatedly noted that "this means we will be litigating this case for another year, at least".
However, on a more positive note, talks between Google, the Association of American Publishers (APP) and the Author’s Guild about reaching a settlement on how to distribute millions of titles that might otherwise be forgotten have seemingly been going well.
"We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made with publishers and believe we can reach an agreement that offers great benefits to users and rights holders alike," Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker said after a court hearing in New York.
"We’d like to resolve the issue reasonably promptly," said AAP president Tom Allen following the court hearing, adding that it could be a question of "weeks."
Michael Boni, a lawyer for the Authors Guild, told Judge Chin that it was preparing to file an amended complaint against Google in the copyright infringement case, but wanted to nevertheless continue negotiations towards a deal.
"We’d like very much to continue a settlement dialogue with Google to settle the case," Boni said. "We’d be on a parallel track with litigation to work on a satisfactory settlement."
In March, Judge Chin dealt a major setback to Google’s plans for a vast digital library and online bookstore by rejecting a proposed settlement reached between the internet company and authors and publishers.
The settlement called for Google to pay $125 million to resolve outstanding copyright claims and to establish an independent "Book Rights Registry," which would provide sales and advertising revenue to authors and publishers.
In his decision to reject the settlement, Judge Chin citied copyright, anti-trust and other concerns, saying that the $125 million settlement went too far. He said it would have granted Google a "de facto monopoly" and the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners.
The settlement is a result from a lawsuit filed in 2005 by the Authors Guild and the AAP, charging Google with copyright infringement over its scanning of millions of books in what was described in the lawsuit as "one of the largest copyright infringements in history".
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