> You were going to get one-click access to the full text of nearly every book that’s ever been published. Books still in print you’d have to pay for, but everything else—a collection slated to grow larger than the holdings at the Library of Congress, Harvard, the University of Michigan, at any of the great national libraries of Europe—would have been available for free at terminals that were going to be placed in every local library that wanted one. [...] Books would become as instantly available, searchable, copy-pasteable—as alive in the digital world—as web pages. [...]

> At the heart of the settlement was a collective licensing regime for out-of-print books. Authors and publishers could opt out their books at any time. For those who didn’t, Google would be given wide latitude to display and sell their books, but in return, 63 percent of the revenues would go into escrow with a new entity called the Book Rights Registry. The Registry’s job would be to distribute funds to rightsholders as they came forward to claim their works; in ambiguous cases, part of the money would be used to figure out who actually owned the rights. [...]

> What became known as the Google Books Search Amended Settlement Agreement came to 165 pages and more than a dozen appendices. It took two and a half years to hammer out the details. Sarnoff described the negotiations as “four-dimensional chess” between the authors, publishers, libraries, and Google. “Everyone involved,” he said to me, “and I mean everyone—on all sides of this issue—thought that if we were going to get this through, this would be the single most important thing they did in their careers.” [...]

> In a statement filed with the court, the DOJ argued that the settlement would give Google a de facto monopoly on out-of-print books. [...] Whatever the motivation, the DOJ said its piece and that seemed to carry the day. In his ruling concluding that the settlement was not “fair, adequate, and reasonable” under the rules governing class actions, Judge Denny Chin recited the DOJ’s objections and suggested that to fix them, you’d either have to change the settlement to be an opt-in arrangement—which would render it toothless—or try to accomplish the same thing in Congress. [...]

> The irony is that so many people opposed the settlement in ways that suggested they fundamentally believed in what Google was trying to do. One of Pamela Samuelson’s main objections was that Google was going to be able to sell books like hers, whereas she thought they should be made available for free. (The fact that she, like any author under the terms of the settlement, could set her own books’ price to zero was not consolation enough, because “orphan works” with un-findable authors would still be sold for a price.) [...] Many of the objectors indeed thought that there would be some other way to get to the same outcome without any of the ickiness of a class action settlement. [...] Of course, nearly a decade later, nothing of the sort has actually happened. “It has got no traction,” Cunard said to me about the Copyright Office’s proposal, “and is not going to get a lot of traction now I don’t think.” [...]

> It certainly seems unlikely that someone is going to spend political capital—especially today—trying to change the licensing regime for books, let alone old ones. [...] Allan Adler, in-house counsel for the publishers, said to me, “a deep pocketed, private corporate actor was going to foot the bill for something that everyone wanted to see.” Google poured resources into the project, not just to scan the books but to dig up and digitize old copyright records, to negotiate with authors and publishers, to foot the bill for a Books Rights Registry. Years later, the Copyright Office has gotten nowhere with a proposal that re-treads much the same ground, but whose every component would have to be funded with Congressional appropriations.
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