Monthly Archives: March 2011

Class Action and Copyright: The Author’s Guild et al. v. Google Inc.

What does this case mean for us as users of Google Books?

“Judge Chin’s ruling changes little for Google users. About two million books that are in the public domain, such as works of William Shakespeare, currently can be viewed free on the Google Books site. They also are available through Google eBooks, a new online book store that allows people to purchase and read books on different devices.

Google Books users currently can view long previews of another two million books that are in copyright and in print, thanks to agreements between Google and tens of thousands of publishers that were separate from the legal settlement. Millions more books that are in copyright but out of print are currently available in Google Books in a shorter “snippet view.” Had the settlement been approved, users would have been able to see longer previews and potentially buy those books.” (Amir Efrati & Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg).

The settlement only affects a small portion of the books that Google makes available, “fewer than 10 million books of 174 million books in the world would be affected by the settlement, and that 5 million of those affected were out of print. Google has estimated that about 130 million titles would likely get into its digital library” (NYC Judge).

Judge Chin has ruled that Google should not be able to benefit from making copyrighted material available and searchable online without the permission of the copyright owner. Instead of permitting copyright owners to opt out, they should be allowed to opt in to the settlement agreement under which Google would: “pay $125 million to establish a registry to allow authors and publishers to register their works and get paid when their titles are viewed online” (Ashby Jones).

One issue that the Google books case has brought to the forefront is the need for an international legislative framework to address orphan works, that is, books whose copyright owners cannot be located. The proposed settlement would “let Google sell full access to copyrighted works that it otherwise would have no right to exploit” (Hillel Italie & Michael Liedtke).

It may take a while for such a framework to be crafted by the U.S and foreign legislators. In the meantime, “Google and the Author’s Guild could try to reach a new settlement” (Sydell).

However, another problem with the proposed settlement is that it would violate international law, as it would purport to allow Google to use without permission, intellectual property belonging to foreign nationals (Hillel Italie & Michael Liedtke).

Although the settlement has been rejected, it is still possible to search Google Books, and the public digital library project will still move forward. One benefit of the Google digitization project is the HathiTrust Digital Library, an online repository containing over 8 million works, mostly provided by Google. It is searchable using a Proquest search tool called Summon. (Steve Kolowich).


John C. Abell, The Catch-22 of Google Books, Reuters, Media File, Mar 28, 2011 available at

Melissa Block, Judge Rejects Google Books Deal, NPR, March 22, 2011, available at

Robert Darnton, Six Reasons Google Books Failed, The New York Review of Books, March 28, 2011, available at

Robert Darnton, A Digital Library Better Than Google’s, The New York Times, March 23, 2011, available at

Amir Efrati and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, Judge Rejects Google Books Settlement, The Wall Street Journal,   MARCH 23, 2011, available at

Michael Hiltzik, Creating a digital public library without Google’s money, Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2011, available at,0,770127.column

Jennifer Howard, Research Libraries See Google Decision as Just a Bump on the Road to Widespread Digital Access, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 23, 2011, available at

Hillel Italie and Michael Liedtke, New York judge calls off plans for Google library, Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, MARCH 22, 2011, available at

Ashby Jones, Banned Books? Judge Chin Shoots Down Google Pact With Publishers, Wall Street Journal Law Blog, March 22, 2011, available at

The Associated Press, Judge Echoes Google Critics In Digital Book RulingMarch 23, 2011, available at

Steve Kolowich, Google Who?, Inside Higher Ed, March 28, 2011, available at

Associated Press, NYC judge rejects Google books settlement, March 22, 2011,,0,2323688.story

Online books and copyright law, Editorial Board Opinion, Washington Post, available at

Eyder Peralta, Judge Rejects Book-Scanning Deal Between Google And Publishers, Authors, March 22, 2011, available at

Laura Sydell, Google Hits A Snag In Digitizing World’s Books, NPR, March 23, 2011, available at


U.S. Supreme Court News: Health-Care Reform Bill case

May the Supreme Court accept a case to determine the constitutionality of the Health Care Bill, where there is still a pending case on this issue in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals?

Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli has asked the Supreme Court to hear a direct appeal of the federal case on the Constitutionality of the implementation of the health-care law. The Obama administration is urging the 4th Circuit Court of appeals to reverse the ruling that the health-care law is unconstitutional. The Department of Justice has filed a motion with the Supreme Court requesting that the Court wait for the 4th Circuit decision before deciding on this matter.

In response, Cuccinelli has filed a brief to try to convince the Supreme Court to hear the case before it goes to the Fourth Circuit. The case, Commonwealth of Virginia v. Kathleen Sebelius, is scheduled to be heard May 10 in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

On April 15, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to discuss Cuccinelli’s petition for the Supreme Court to hear the lawsuit and to bypass appellate court review.

Update: The Supreme Court decided not to hear the case.

“JULIE ROVNER: It’s pretty rare for the high court to agree to take a case directly from a trial court.

Professor TIMOTHY JOST (Washington and Lee University Law School): The case has to be of, quote, “such imperative public importance,” unquote, that it requires immediate determination in this court.

ROVNER: Timothy Jost is a law professor at Washington and Lee University Law School in Lexington, Virginia. He says the Court usually limits such expedited cases to those involving foreign relations, national security or national crises” (Rovner).


CA News: CA Court Management System under Scrutiny

The idea of a unified court management system for all of the California courts sounds like a good idea. Easily accessible up to date legal information shared amongst all the courts, and increased transparency and accountability. However, as the story unfolds, it is a terrible warning about what can happen when such a huge electronic information system is implemented by state government officials without proper planning and without the input and guidance of reliable, professional information management specialists. There are ways to implement e-governance initiatives that reduce government corruption and increase efficiency, but this, apparently is not an example of the successful implementation of such an e-governance initiative.

According to, “The Administrative Office of the Courts” this project, which is expected to be completed by 2015, “will improve the timeliness, accuracy and uniformity of the courts’ data.” However, the CA state auditor has found that lack of proper planning and research at the beginning of the project has led to inefficient and inadequate implementation of the system. <>

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White, describes the system as “folly”, and “a massively expensive failure.”  <>

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Civil Rights/Law & Technology: Need Warrant to Retrieve Cell Phone Data?

In this hi-tech age where smart phones proliferate throughout the world, it often takes years for our laws to catch up to new technology. A recent cell phone decision of first impressions in the Third Circuit accentuates the struggle between laws and newer technology. In that case (620 F.3d 304;, the court vacated and remanded a lower court decision, holding that a judge may not require the government to prove the high standard of probable cause before compelling service providers to hand over cell phone location records or CSLI  (see pp. 313, 319). Because the judge is allowed the choice to call for a lesser standard than probable cause, this decision has some civil libertarians up in arms, as they see it as another example of the erosion of individual rights.

So what do you think? Do you think a higher standard of proof should automatically exist in order for the government to be able to obtain the cell phone location history of suspects? Or shall a lesser standard suffice?

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