At a status hearing that lasted all of five minutes, attorney Bruce Keller told Judge Chin that no decisions have been reached on any key issues in the Google Book Settlement, but that the parties still hoped to see if an amicable resolution is possible. Keller, representing the publishers, was the only one to speak at the hearing and said he spoke for all parties, which also includes Google and the Authors Guild. Keller asked Chin for another 60 days to continue to negotiate. Chin, saying he understood it was a complicated issue, set the next status hearing for July 19. The parties have been looking for common ground since Chin rejected the amended settlement agreement in late March.
While the hearing itself was uneventful, statements made by publishers and authors after the hearing were perhaps more telling. “The parties have held conversations to determine if a revised agreement is possible,“ said AAP president and CEO Tom Allen in s statement. “Those conversations are ongoing and if not successful, the litigation will resume.” In a brief statement, Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken said authors were “giving settlement discussions a fair shot before pressing ahead with our litigation.” Google had no statement at press time.
Those statements stand in contrast to statements made just after the settlement’s rejection on March 22, when publishers and authors expressed eagerness to strike a revised deal. Certainly, statements raising the specter of renewed litigation strike a different tone going forward, and suggests that after more than two years of stumping together with Google for the settlement, the parties' fragile alliance may be under stress. At the very least, the lack of progress reported Wednesday, along with the statements from publishers and authors, suggest a new reality: coming to a revised agreement will be no easy task.
While Chin suggested in his rejection that a deal refashioned as an “opt-in” arrangement could pass judicial muster, Google has shown little interest in such a deal thus far. And, in rejecting the parties’ forward-looking business arrangement, Chin essentially removed the parties’ only common ground for settling. The parties have made no progress on the underlying copyright dispute behind the lawsuits: whether Google’s scanning and limited display of library books is fair use, or infringement.