• The Google digital library row explained
The judge overseeing Google's controversial agreement with American publishers to digitise millions of books has delayed a hearing into the $125m deal - effectively shutting down the settlement and sending it back to the drawing board.
Instead of proceeding with the internet giant's plans to make millions of in-copyright books available online and take a slice of the proceeds - a deal first announced last year - the groups will now go back and renegotiate the settlement in way that satisfies critics including the US Department of Justice.
A hearing into the existing deal had originally been scheduled for early October, as the court prepared to rule on whether the settlement was fair or not. However, following objections posed by Washington, the groups involved in the deal had said they needed more time to re-work the agreement.
New York district judge Denny Chin, who is overseeing the case, said on Thursday that the parties would be granted their request to return to the negotiating table to work out more details.
'The current settlement agreement raises significant issues, as demonstrated not only by the number of objections, but also by the fact that the objectors include countries, states, non-profit organisations and prominent authors and law professors. Clearly fair concerns have been raised,' he wrote in a two-page order.
He added, however, that there was substantial public benefit to be gained from the deal and that future tweaks would be dealt with as quickly as possible.
'The proposed settlement would offer many benefits to society, as recognised by supporters of the settlement as well as the Department of Justice. It would appear that if a fair and reasonable settlement can be struck, the public would benefit.'
The case had proved one of the most controversial in recent memory, creating a tidal wave of criticism from a wide variety of groups, including authors, publishers, advocacy groups and Amazon and Microsoft opposing the deal as 'susceptible to abuse'.
In Europe, concerns were raised since the deal could have significant global implications, despite only theoretically applying to the US.
Google had tried to head off those criticisms by assembling its own alliance of supporters, including Japanese electronics giant Sony and a number of groups who backed the wider availability of information promised by the book scanning project.
The Californian internet company said that it intended to continue pursuing a deal, while the Authors Guild - which was one of the groups that agreed to the settlement - said the details would eventually be thrashed out.
'We'll continue to work on amending the settlement to address the Justice Department's concerns,' it said in a statement on its website.
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