Google Books has been the source of much controversy for Google over the years and the problems aren't gone just yet, despite the company having reached an agreement more than a year ago with the author and publisher groups with which it was in litigation over the service. After delays and concerns from government officials, the parties have now filed a revised settlement agreement, which would hopefully get approved by the court.
“Last year, we joined with a broad class of authors and publishers to announce a settlement agreement that would make millions of out-of-print books available to students and readers in every part of the U.S., while forging new opportunities for rightsholders to sell access to their books. Tonight we submitted an amended version of the Google Books settlement agreement to the court,” Dan Clancy, Google Books engineering director, wrote.
You can get the full settlement text here, but, at over 170 pages, it's not exactly light reading. The changes in the revised version focus on the issue of orphan books, which were the center of most of the criticism. Previously, Google had the right to sell these books for which the copyright holder couldn't be determined. While the deal wasn't exclusive, other companies wanting to do the same had to make their own deals with the rights groups.
Now, the settlement involves the creation of an independent body, which will handle the issues concerning these books. This trustee will be able to allow other companies to sell the orphaned books and will also handle the money raised from the sales. Previously, if unclaimed for five years, the money would be collected by the rights holder groups. Now, the money will sit for ten years to allow the copyright owners to claim them, after which they will be used for charities and to fund efforts to determine the rights holders for the books.
The settlement also only covers books published in several English-speaking countries, the US, the UK, Canada and Australia, after concerns from several other countries. The revised version addresses most of the concerns and it should allow any other company to compete with Google by selling the same books, which was the main issue raised by competitors.