What’s going on with a revised Google Settlement? Some talking, but probably not very much progress, say court-watchers, noting that the odds of seeing a revised settlement proposal in 2011 may be long. “You never know what is going on inside the [negotiations],” says Patrick J. O. Connor, an experienced copyright and intellectual property lawyer with Florida-based firm Harper Meyer. But this is a complex issue, as Judge Chin acknowledged.” O’Connor, who worked on another key copyright case this decade, Greenberg v. National Geographic, says another four or five extensions are “absolutely possible,” as the parties wrestle with whether a revised settlement along the lines Judge Denny Chin suggested in his March 22 rejection is even possible, and then, what the contours of that agreement might look like.
O’Connor told PW he was not surprised at all that the parties had no progress to report on June 1, and that was in fact, expected, even after being granted an extension from an originally scheduled status conference on April 25. He was mildly surprised, however, with the shift in tone by publishers and authors, in which both parties raised the possibility of renewed litigation. O’Connor says those statements, however, are most likely the usual saber-rattling between parties, and that everyone, including Google, almost certainly prefer to find a way to make the case go away, rather than re-engage in costly, time-consuming litigation. But the parties may disagree over how quickly that should happen. “For Google, there is no real hurry,” he noted, adding that the more the e-book market grows, the more public opinion could turn Google's way, and Google can also show that its library scanning efforts are not causing the kind of harm authors and publishers predicted. Publishers, meanwhile, “are not eager" to litigate, O'Connor suggest, despite their statements raising the possibility.
Not everyone has time on their side, however. After the parties reported little progress at the June 1 status conference Judge Denny Chin briefly alluded to his new job on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In granting the parties a new status conference date of July 19, Chin quipped that he hasn’t been kicked out of his district courtroom yet. Kidding aside, O’Connor says that Chin’s new job—and how long he might be able to hang on to cases left over from his old one—could factor into how quickly a new settlement is in place. “Eventually, [Chin] would have to give it up,” O’Connor says, if the settlement process drags on for too long, although it is unclear how long "too long" would be. And, if a new judge takes over the complex settlement approval process, getting that judge up to speed could mean further delays.