At a status conference held in a crowded New York courtroom this morning, lawyers representing the AAP and Authors Guild told judge Denny Chin they will file an amended agreement with the court by November 9 to address the many concerns raised by the original Google Book Search Settlement.
The new agreement will include specific amendments designed to answer the objections raised to the deal by the Department of Justice and dozens of other parties and individuals who objected to the original settlement. The lawyers also asked for a limited time for objections to be filed to the amended deal, and asked that new objections be limited to the new amendments. Judge Chin agreed with the timetable, and parties hope to have a final hearing in early January. Lawyers for the Authors Guild also asked that a previously scheduled January 5, 2010, deadline—for authors of scanned books to make claims for payments—be extended to June 5, 2010.
Judge Chin also noted that the court had been overwhelmed by hard-copy briefs submitted in opposition to the original Google settlement and emphasized that he wanted to “make this a smoother operation.” He drew laughter when he said, “Of all cases, this should have an electronic submission process.” Counsel for the Authors Guld and AAP both agreed to set up an e-mail/electronic procedure for objections. As the session drew to a close, Judge Chin also brought up the possibility of failure to reach an agreement and asked if it would be necessary to start a discovery process. While both parties thought it premature to speculate about failing to agree, they told the judge that document discovery was mostly complete, but that depositions would likely be required.
After the hearing, Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, told PW that “nothing unexpected” came out of the hearing. He also anticipated no problems with the limited time—about two months—allotted for objections to the amended agreement: “the judge was clear that everyone has already had a lot of time to respond to this.” And he was unconcerned about Chin’s inquiry about the possibility of failure to reach an agreement. “The judge was just covering all the bases,” said Aiken.