Simpsons Solicitors

Australian Plaintiffs in Google Books Copyright Class Action – Amended Settlement Agreement

November 26th 2009

In major entertainment law news, an amended settlement agreement has just been filed in New York and two Australian publishers have joined the US proceedings as representative plaintiffs.

In 2004 Google commenced its Google Library Project announcing it had entered agreements with U.S libraries to scan their books and make parts of them (“snippets”) available on-line.   This prompted various U.S publishers and authors to commence a class action for copyright infringement against Google.  In its defence, Google argued that its copying of the books and display of snippets, or a few lines, of the books is permitted under the U.S. copyright law’s doctrine of “fair use.”  The case is purportedly the largest class action in U.S history.

On 28 September 2008, the parties announced they had agreed to settle the proceedings and sought the Court’s approval of the settlement (as required under U.S class action procedures).  The settlement received substantial feedback from various interested parties including the Department of Justice.

In response to that feedback, the parties have recently filed an Amended Settlement Agreement and on 19 November 2009, the Court granted preliminary approval of the settlement.  One of the major changes to the settlement agreement, was a narrowing of the class of plaintiffs which would effectively exclude many publishers and authors outside the United States.

However, two Australian publishers (Melbourne University Press and The Text Publishing Company) and two Australian authors were joined as representative plaintiffs to the action to ensure that other Australian authors and publishers had the opportunity of participating in the settlement (or choosing not to).

Accordingly, all books protected by copyright and published in Australia by 5 January 2009 are likely to be covered by the settlement.

Simpsons Solicitors assisted the Australian publishers join the class action in conjunction with the Australian Publishers Association and was involved in drafting aspects of the settlement agreement.

A fairness hearing is now scheduled to take place in New York on 18 February 2010, where it is possible the settlement agreement may be approved by the court.  Publishers and Authors can opt out of the settlement (or opt back in if they have already opted out) by 28 January 2010 at the Google Books Settlement Home Page.

Click here to view an executive summary of the amendments that have been made to the originally-proposed settlement agreement.

Click here to view a flow chart showing the settlement timeline.

Click here to view a flow chart showing what you need to do if you want to participate in the settlement, or want to opt out of the settlement.

Click here to view a flow chart showing what Google can do with your books if the settlement proceeds.

Any queries in relation to copyright law, the Google book settlement or book publishing can be directed to Adam Simpson.