Google offered a compromise deal with authors and publishers late yesterday, in an effort to overcome Justice Department objections to an earlier agreement and clear the way for distribution of millions of digital books online. Two months ago Justice had blocked a settlement in a lawsuit brought by authors and publishers, warning the arrangement was anticompetitive and could do more harm than good in the emerging market for electronic books.
Among other new provisions, the modified agreement provides more flexibility to offer discounts on electronic books and promises to make it easier for others to resell access to a digital index of books covered in the settlement. An independent party would oversee the financial interests of orphan books' copyright owners, and hold proceeds from their sales for 10 years. Copyright holders also would have to give more explicit permission to sell digital book copies if another version is being sold anywhere else in the world. The revised settlement would apply only to books registered with the US copyright office or published in Canada, the United Kingdom or Australia. The financial terms of the $125 million deal remain intact, including a promise to give 63% of all sales proceeds to participating authors and publishers.