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Judge rejects Google deal to digitise all printed books

Google's ambition to create the world's largest digital library and bookstore has run into a 300-year-old legal wall: copyright.

india Updated: Mar 23, 2011 22:49 IST

Google's ambition to create the world's largest digital library and bookstore has run into a 300-year-old legal wall: copyright.

The company's plan to digitise every book ever published and make them widely available was derailed on Tuesday when a federal judge in New York rejected a sweeping $125 million legal settlement that it had worked out with groups representing authors and publishers.

The decision brings into sharp focus concerns about the company's growing power over information. The effort is one of the pet projects of Google co-founder Larry Page, who is set to become its chief executive next month, and has wide support inside the company.

"It was very much consistent with Larry's idealism that all of the world's information should be made available freely," said Ken Auletta, the author of Googled: The End of the World as We Know It.

But Judge Denny Chin said that the settlement went too far. He said it would have granted Google a "de facto monopoly" and the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners.

He acknowledged that "the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many," but the proposed agreement was "not fair, adequate and reasonable." He left open the possibility that a substantially revised agreement could pass muster.

The decision is also a setback for the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, which had sued Google in 2005 over its book-scanning project.