GBS: Essential Readings for Settlement Junkies

Here are some of my picks for the most interesting filings to come in yesterday. This list is far from complete, but these are the ones that I felt most had something new and interesting to say or were most fun to read:

  • Amazon’s brief is really hard-hitting. Agree or disagree with its substantive points, you have to admit that this is a superbly executed piece of technical legal advocacy. The highlight is a close discussion of the Reseller program in the amended settlement: unsurprisingly, Amazon thinks that it makes the settlement worse, not better.
  • The Open Book Alliance supplemental brief is more informal and more cutthroat. It works the crowd—this is a legal document also intended to be read by non-lawyers. Also, watch the brief’s tone: it’s a very carefully modulated combination of anger, contempt, sadness, pity, and soothing rationality. The argument that Google is trying to leverage the settlement into control of the search market is worth a close read.
  • The non-Anglophone coalition in opposition is smaller than it used to be, but still against the settlement. The new battlefront is not just objecting to being included at all, but also attacking the difficulty of determining whether a book falls within the settlement at all. Many foreign publishers, apparently, haven’t been keeping records of their United States copyright registrations, not since the U.S. accession to Berne eliminated the registration threshold for foreign copyright owners. I thought the best brief on these issues was the one filed for an international group with lead objector Carl Hanser Verlag.
  • The Arlo Guthrie objection goes over some familiar turf, but it also has a nice section on the difficulty of using the Google-supplied books database.
  • The best discussion about the meaning of “fiduciary” obligations and whether the UWF will meet them comes from the state of Connecticut.
  • The most interesting new objector was AT&T. The brief itself, although polished and detailed, has a sort of me-too quality: rephrasing arguments that will be familiar to close watchers of the settlement. It’s more of a confirmation of AT&T’s intense hatred of Google: whatever Google wants, we should try to stop. The proffered reason that AT&T will be harmed by the settlement: it competes with Google in online advertising and in local and mobile search.
  • The second-most interesting new objector was a group of Indian publishers.
  • The newly launched Fordham IP clinic, led by its newly commissioned director, Ron Lazebnik, filed a brief on behalf of the SFWA, ASJA, and NWU. It has the most detailed discussion of the Author-Publisher Procedures and the mandatory arbitration provisions of the settlement in any filing to date.
  • The best of the pro se letters to the court so far is the one from U.K. author Diana Kimpton.

We’re still in the process of uploading filings to the Public Index — I’ll write a follow-up post later on.

Thanks very much for the play-by-play and picks of highlights.

They are in snail-mail postmarked yesterday from Canada, so they haven’t hit the electronic docket yet, but I think the new Canadian objections may prove among the most significant in multiple respects.

I haven’t rechecked the federal or local rules, but my understanding was that mailing is not filing. Unless the document was physically or electronically delivered to the court yesterday, it may not be considered timely.

Diana Kimpton’s six page letter has attached printouts from the Google Book Data Base showing Harry Potter and Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code as not commercially available, and she explains how this erroneous designation enables Google to sell pirated e-versions and access to these heavily protected works-Given this finding, she asks, what hope is there for promised protections for all lesser known authors? She identifies herself as a web page designer as well as a published author, and she reports on conversations with the Google Book engineer on the several serious defects she discusses, particularly a failure of Google to link scanned editions, reporting even public domain books as both commercially and not commercially available. Not only should she and other objecting parties and attorneys share in the $30 million legal fees, for contributing to and improving the Google Book Scheme,if it ever is approved by Judge Chin, but Google should pay Ms. Kimpton big consulting fees for her web design and debugging labors.

James, I looked at the local rules and you are right about delivery being filing. But, though I can’t say why, I thought that the postmark date is what matters for objections in this case.

In the last round of objections, I sent my & some other people’s objections by snail mail on the deadline date. Our papers were accepted and docketed by the Clerk’s office. In fact, there were quite a number of snail-mail objections that were docketed after September 8. If they were deemed untimely, wouldn’t the Clerk’s office reject them?


Given this finding, she asks, what hope is there for promised protections for all lesser known authors?

As I understand it, many years ago the original issue was about fair/unfair use and a authors right to refuse consent to Googles use of that authors work, at all. It was not a dispute about payments.

The current settlement is not about protection of individual authors at all. Lots of parties are seeking ‘protection’ and few of them look like individual authors.

I don’t know whether this agrees with what the federal court mandates, but Google’s GBS page does say that objections must be postmarked (not received) on or before Jan. 28:

“File an objection to the Amended Settlement: If you wish to object to the provisions amending the Original Settlement, your objection must be postmarked on or before January 28, 2010. You need not and should not refile your objection to the Original Settlement, which will be considered as previously filed. You may, however, withdraw your objection at any time prior to the date of the Fairness Hearing.”

The GBS website says objections must be postmarked on or before January 28th, I sent mine by mail yesterday, January 28th. ABSOLUTELY, I MUST be considered TIMELY. If I’m not, I will do everything in my power to BRING THIS BS SHAM DOWN!!!

It is all about the GD Lawyers getting paid anyway! I truly believe, every lawyer in this travesty (Plaintiff, Defense Counsel, Supporter, Objector, Seminar Participant, Judge, USDOJ, or even Website Operator) is out for one thing only — to get paid.

The Google Book Settlement is a goldmine for lawyers, the Authors get the shaft.

Sad, but true.


Thanks for your comment. I’d thought I had it right about the postmark, but when I couldn’t find it, I was getting a bit nervous. I looked at the notice which says to “file” by January 28, then looked up the local rules for the meaning of filing, rather than take the quick, sensible route of looking at the website first. It’s nice to have people like you around.

…but I think the new Canadian objections may prove among the most significant in multiple respects.— Edward Hasbrouck

The Canadian Letter of Objection has been posted to the Public Index- Canadian Authors in the “Objections (Pro Se)” section.

Douglas Fevens, Halifax, Nova Scotia, The University of Wisconsin, Google, & Me

I think this is just one more symptom of the gross incompetence of the settlement administrator, which has been manifest in many ways — such as the notice that appeared on the settlement Web site, as of the time the supplementary e-mail notices were sent, saying that the deadline had already passed. The reference to “postmarked on or before January 28, 2010” on the settlement Web site about the objection deadline wasn’t in the notice approved by the court, so it could only have come from the settlement administrator “helpfully” misinterpreting the rules, and misleading class members — and from failure of class counsel and the parties to exercise due diligence over the actions of the administrator.

I’ve heard from a number of class members who have gotten other misinformation from the settlement administrator, but who have also gotten the (mis)impression that the settlement administrator’s staff are helpful “advocates” for them, trying to protect their interests.

In light of the website, I would expect the court to treat letters postmarked on the 28th as timely, and I also wouldn’t expect that the parties would try to argue otherwise.

The Arlo Guthrie objection? So the Gail Steinbeck letter was mistaken about the attitude of the Guthrie family, as well as the ‘trademark issue’.