India objects to Google book settlement

Indian publishers and authors have jointly submitted an objection to Google's revised deal

About 15 Indian authors and publishers, and two organizations in the country, submitted their objections on Thursday to Google's plan to scan and sell books online.

Google's proposed settlement of a U.S. lawsuit turns copyright law on its head, said Siddharth Arya, legal counsel for the Indian Reprographic Rights Organisation (IRRO), in a telephone interview on Friday.

IRRO is an organization owned by authors and publishers, created to license reproduction rights to books and other publications. The other organization that joined in submitting its objection is the Federation of Indian Publishers, an association of publishers in India.

The proposed settlement is a blatant violation of Indian and international copyright laws, by permitting Google to scan and sell any book online, while shifting the onus of backing out of the settlement on copyright owners through an "opt out" clause, Arya added.

The submission by the Indians is one of many made by authors, publishers and other organizations to Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The critics oppose Google's settlement of a class action lawsuit with U.S. publishers and authors.

The settlement was drafted in October 2008, but was revised last November after the U.S. Department of Justice raised concerns about the copyright and antitrust legality of the proposed settlement.

Groups had until Thursday to file objections to the revised settlement with the court. Judge Chin has set a "final fairness hearing" for Feb. 18.

Provisions such as the "opt out" option imply that if a person is silent, he is deemed to have consented to an agreement, thus fundamentally altering his rights, the Indian authors and publishers said in a statement.

It is outrageous that Indian authors and publishers are forced parties to an agreement that has been negotiated on their behalf by a few publishers alone, without any representation of their interests, the statement added.

Although the scope of the settlement is limited to books that are either registered with the U.S. Copyright Office or published in the U.K., Canada and Australia, it will affect Indian authors as well, Arya said. Many Indian authors like to see themselves published abroad, he added.

India also has a large number of authors and publishers who bring out books in the local languages in the country.

If the settlement is accepted it will affect publishers and authors in the local languages as well, as it will dilute copyright forever, Arya said.

"It means that the world has fundamentally accepted the concept that anybody, anywhere can copy what they want en masse without permission, and then ask people to opt out", he added.

"This is another step in the approval process of the settlement", Google said in a statement, when asked to comment on the objections from the Indian publishers.

There have been many organizations and individuals who have filed their support of the amended settlement agreement with the Court, the statement said. "They believe, as we do, that the settlement will open access to millions of books," Google added.

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