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Armen Boyajian
Federalist Society chapter president
(818) 219-1107

James Boyd
IU Maurer School of Law
(812) 856-1497

Last modified: Friday, October 9, 2009

Google's book settlement: A view from both sides

Oct. 9, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Is Google the world's biggest pirate of copyrighted works, or is it performing a valuable public service by making out-of-print books easily accessible to millions of people?

In 2004, Google embarked on a herculean project: scanning and digitizing entire libraries of books. While the Google Book Search project grew to an estimated seven million volumes by 2008, class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of publishers and authors in the United States, France and Germany challenged the Internet search giant's legal right to do so.


The Google Book Search case will be at the center of a debate on Monday (Oct. 12) at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. Participants will include Steven Hetcher, co-director of the Technology & Entertainment Program at the Vanderbilt University Law School, and Anthony Rose, JD'90, a partner with Meitus Gelbert Rose LLP in Indianapolis. The event is being co-hosted by the local student chapter of the Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies and the Intellectual Property Law Association.

Google reached a settlement with the plaintiffs in October 2008, but the details of the agreement are still being negotiated before an anticipated federal court date next month. In addition to the copyright issue, the U.S. Department of Justice fears the settlement will allow Google to create a virtual monopoly on digitizing books in violation of antitrust laws.

Google and its supporters argue that the digitization of millions of out-of-print or hard-to-find works will benefit anyone with curiosity and an Internet connection. The debaters will discuss the pending settlement proceedings and focus on fundamental issues regarding copyright liability and the fair use doctrine.

"This is a fascinating case of monumental importance," said Armen Boyajian, chapter president of the Federalist Society. "Our mission is to broaden the diversity of thought on campus by facilitating fair and open dialogue on hot issues. By having such esteemed participants like professors Hetcher and Rose, we anticipate a vigorous discussion on the case and its implications. Anyone with an interest in intellectual property or the future of digitally accessible content should not miss this timely debate."

Monday's debate, which begins at noon, is made possible through a grant by the John Templeton Foundation and will be moderated by IU Maurer School of Law Professor Marshall Leaffer, an internationally renowned expert on copyright law. The media is invited to attend and cover the event.

Hetcher is a former attorney with Arnold & Porter and has been on the Vanderbilt law faculty since 1998. He is the author of Norms in a Wired World. Rose, an adjunct professor at both the IU Maurer School of Law and the IU School of Law--Indianapolis, has more than 17 years of experience as a practicing attorney in both the public and private sectors. He is the recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest civilian honor awarded to an Indiana citizen.