Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blips in Google’s Book Project Settlement

It appears that the settlement reached over the Google Book Project may not be as much of a “done deal” as previously thought. Indeed, it is being challenged by several competitors in the digital book industry who wish to see certain revisions put into place before the Court approves the terms. See Jessica E. Vascellaro & Geoffrey A. Fowler, “Tech's Heavyweights Put Google's Books Deal In Crosshairs,” Wall Street Journal, Aug. 21, 2009, at B1.

It is also being investigated by the Department of Justice as a potential antitrust violation. See Jessica E. Vascellaro, “Facing Scrutiny, Google Steps Up Lobbying,” WSJ Digits Blog, July 22, 2009; see alsoThe Google Books Project: An Antitrust Case in the Making?,” WSJ Law Blog, July 24, 2009.

The European Commission has scheduled a hearing on September 7, 2009 to consider “the effect of the Google Book US Settlement Agreement on the European publishing sector, European authors, European consumers and society at large.” See also Reuters, EU sets hearing over Google books deal, July 20, 2009; Jessica E. Vascellaro, “EU Calls Google Books Hearing, House Ponders One,” WSJ’s Digits Blog, July 20, 2009.

There are definitely upsides to a digitizing project of this nature – public access to out-of-print works (whether still protected by copyright or not) could be a great thing. These books might not be available at your local library, and indeed you might not find out about them through your normal channels of research. If they are out of print, you might have a hard time finding them through used-book sellers or online retailers – assuming you knew to try to find them. Making these books available to the public again, along with the ability to have these books appear in search results relevant to the content of these books, would provide a great social benefit. See also William Echikson, Opinion Europe: “Reviving Lost Books,” Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2009; Philippe Colombet, “Sharing Public Domain Books,” Inside Google Books Blog, Aug. 18, 2009.

The downsides are significant, however, and should not be ignored. Principally among them is the possibility that copyright holders’ rights would be completely disregarded, eliminating their ability to control the creation of derivative works (such as a digital copy of a book previously available only in print) and the further distribution of their works. The settlement attempts to address these copyright concerns, but has yet to be approved by the Court. The Authors’ Guild Complaint makes the case for the “downsides” rather clearly. See Authors’ Guild v. Google, No. 05 CV 8136 (SDNY).

The Court apparently has rescheduled the hearing to review the settlement for October 7, 2009. See Google Book Settlement FAQs (noting that the hearing was originally scheduled for June 11, 2009). It will be very interesting to see whether the Court approves the settlement and/or whether the fair market system and pure competition will intervene to provide alternate means to access this information without having to rely solely on Google.


Google originally proposed to undertake the Google Print Project (including the section now called the Google Book Project) without seeking permission from individual copyright holders, or arranging for any payment of royalties, citing the public’s keen interest in having rare and typically unavailable books digitized and accessible. In public statements – including ones made during a panel discussion before the ABA’s Intellectual Property Law Section in April 2006 – Google defended its decision to structure the plan as an “Opt Out” plan (requiring the publishers and authors to make the affirmative step to withdraw from the program, instead of seeking their permission/participation in advance) based on the significant cost involved in trying to locate in the individual rights holders and obtain their agreements to participate. For a competing viewpoint, however, see “Googling Copyrights,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 3, 2005, at A16 (“Getting permission from all the rights-holders for such an ambitious undertaking would undoubtedly be time-consuming and bothersome, but no one said that storing and making money off someone else's copyrighted material was or should be easy.”).

The Authors’ Guild Lawsuit

On September 20, 2005, The Authors’ Guild filed a lawsuit against Google, attempting to block Google’s efforts to launch its Library Project. Authors’ Guild v. Google, No. 05 CV 8136 (SDNY)(“Compl.”). According to the Complaint, a subset of this Project was the Print Project. Compl. ¶ 19. (This is the component now known as the Google Book Project.)

The Authors’ Guild alleged that Google was engaged in willful, “massive” copyright infringement [Compl. ¶¶ 3, 5] and sought damages, injunctive relief and declaratory relief with respect to the infringement that Google had performed prior to the filing of the suit, and declaratory and injunctive relief for “planned unauthorized commercial use of the Works” going forward after the suit was initiated. Id. ¶ 6. The commercial use at issue here was Google’s offering of advertising space on search result pages for a fee to commercial entities, while providing the search engine itself for free to Internet users. Id. ¶ 16. Thus, Google would benefit from the use of the copyrighted text through advertising revenue, but did not plan to pay copyright owners for its use of the copyrighted text. (98% of Google’s earnings at the time apparently were made up by advertising revenue. Id. ¶ 17.)

Note that the “use” at issue in the Complaint was not only providing certain amounts of text in search results to users of Google’s search tools, but also to the scanning, OCR’ing, and maintaining the full text in its database to be searched using Google’s search engine. See id. ¶ 31; see also Opinion, “Googling Copyrights,” Wall Street Journal, Oct. 3, 2005, at A16 (“But the mere activity of digitizing and storing millions of books – many thousands of them under copyright – without buying any of them raises a serious legal question, regardless of how much of that content Google later makes available at any one time or to any one user.”). The first use of the text would be visible to the public – the second would not be, but nonetheless provides value to Google. Indeed, if Google did not have the full text copied into its database, it would not be able to identify this text as being relevant in response to a search request made by a user of the search engine. As a result, the copyrighted book would not have appeared in the search results if Google had not copied the entire text into its database.

By the time the Complaint was filed, Google had entered into contracts with University of Michigan (subject of the suit) [Compl. ¶ 23a] and Harvard, Oxford, Stanford and N.Y. Public Library (scanning had not started at the time of the filing of the Complaint, but these libraries were the subjects of the requested injunction) to digitize all books in their collections – both works in the public domain and those still protected by U.S. copyright law. Id. ¶ 32. By now, however, Google’s list of library partners has greatly expanded: Google’s site presently lists several foreign libraries as well as a few additional American ones: specifically, Columbia University, Cornell University Library, Princeton, University of California, University of Texas at Austin, University of Virginia, and University of Wisconsin – Madison.

The Settlement

On October 28, 2008, the Author's Guild reached a settlement with Google over Google’s plans to digitize entire library collections – regardless of whether the books were still protected by copyright or had fallen into the public domain. (The Publishers also reached a settlement of their case, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. v. Google Inc., 05 Civ. 8881 (JES), filed on October 19, 2005 and alleging similar allegations; their settlement agreement appears as Attachment M to the Author’s Guild Settlement Agreement.)

In connection with the settlement, the parties issued a Notice announcing the settlement. The Authors’ Guild also summarized the terms of the settlement and provided a summary of the “benefits” of the settlement relating to out-of-print books. The Settlement Administration Web Site describes the impact of the settlement on various rights holders and provides copies of the relevant filings and instructions to copyright holders of “books and in writings included in books and other works published on or before January 5, 2009” about how to participate in the settlement. Rights holders can file their claims through the site as well.

Google published its own summary of the terms of the settlement, calling it a “groundbreaking agreement with authors and publishers.”

Missing from the Settlement – Addressing Privacy Concerns

On July 27, 2009, the Center for Democracy and Technology (a public interest group focused on the Internet) released its recommendations for incorporating privacy protections into the Book Registry and the search engine that it recommends Google implement when it puts the settlement into practice. See CDT's Report on Google Book Service.

The report recognizes that the Settlement addressed only issues of copyright and appropriate compensation/attribution to the rights holders and does not address any concerns of privacy of those people who may be using the search engine to find relevant books. However, now that the Settlement may be on the verge of finalization, thereby implementing procedures by which information about the public’s use of the database could be captured, it is critical to ensure that only the minimal necessary information is collected about users. While the technology exists to permit Google to collect substantial personal information about users (and the other sites they visit, the books they have searched and/or read online, the books they have purchased through other sites, etc.), restrictions should be put into place to protect individuals’ privacy rights.

The report is particularly illuminating and well-written. It provides an alternate view (very carefully researched and written) to the basic concept that having these works accessible in digital form to anyone around the world, without regard to whether the local library owns a printed copy, is priceless. Access is not the only consideration; privacy for those seeking to use this new medium should be protected as well.

Additional Links of Interest

Jonathan Band, “The Google Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis,” E-Commerce Law & Policy (August 2005) at 2

Authors Sue Google, Challenging Use of Works in Google Library,” BNA’s Patent Trademark & Copyright Journal, Sept, 23, 2005

The Authors’ Guild Google Book Settlement Resources

Google’s Legal Perspectives’ Site

Google’s Tips on Improving Search Results – how to maximize the search results using Google’s tools

The Official Settlement Site

Wikipedia’s Chronology regarding Google Book Project

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Copyright Suit Filed against Publishers of Music Lyrics

On August 24, 2009, members of the National Music Publishers Association filed suit in the US District Court for the Central District of California against LiveUniverse, Inc. and its owner Brad Greenspan, alleging copyright infringement associated with LiveUniverse’s publication of music lyrics. The Complaint is not yet available through the court’s web site.

The publishers filed a similar suit against Motive Force, LLC and others in the Western District of Pennsylvania in connection with its site, LyricWiki. Peermusic, III, Ltd. et al. v. Motive Force LLC et al., Civil Action No. 2:09-cv-01137-RCM (filed Aug. 24, 2009).

More information about the disputes can be found here:

* Jay Miller, “Music Publishers Group Files Copyright Suit,” Wall Street Journal, Aug. 24, 2009.

* National Music Publishers Association Press Release, “Music publishers pursue illegal lyric sites; Legal marketplace harmed when unlicensed sites go unchecked,” Aug. 24, 2009.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Proposed Legislation to Address Perceived Misidentification of Geographic Source of Goods

On July 31, 2009, Representative Daniel B. Maffei (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3499, to be called the “Trademark Protection Act” in the House of Representatives. The Bill purports to assess civil liability for unfair competition in the form of misleading the public as to the geographic source of a particular product. This provision would amend Section 1125(a)(1), which prohibits “False designations of origin, false descriptions and dilution” in the use of trademarks in commerce in the U.S. 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)(1).

Apparent Objection to Relocating Manufacturing to China

Among the findings Rep. Maffei proposes, he explains why he introduced the Bill: “Syracuse China was an upstate New York manufacturer in the city of Syracuse. The company was founded in 1871 as the Onondaga Pottery Co. and was one of the last major china makers in the U.S. On April 9, 2009, after more than 130 years in business, Libbey Inc. (of Toledo, Ohio) halted production in Syracuse, eliminating 275 local jobs. Libbey plans to continue selling dinnerware under the name 'Syracuse China' even after they stop production at the New York-based plant, but the company will manufacture the product in other countries and import them into the U.S.” H.R. 3499 § 2 (3).

It appears that the Syracuse China Company (which appears to be a different legal entity than the one identified in Rep. Maffei’s Bill) owns a valid registration in the word SYRACUSE, standing alone, which is registered in connection with “China tableware and ornamental chinaware” (Reg. No. 104,744, registered in 1915, alleging a date of first use in 1897). The registration was renewed in 2005, and could be asserted against a different company seeking to confuse consumers about the source of the goods sold in connection with a confusingly similar mark. (That being said, it’s possible that the Libbey Company referenced in the Bill is somehow affiliated or related to the Syracuse China Company such that litigation would not be considered.)

Indeed, it appears that at one time, predecessors of the Syracuse China Company registered variations of the mark “SYRACUSE CHINA” and then let the registrations lapse. Specifically, the following three registrations are marked “dead” in the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s database – and therefore cannot be asserted in litigation against some one else’s actual use of the mark in commerce:

* SYRACUSE CHINA (& design), Reg. No. 734,163 applied to “dinnerware and tableware made of China” and was registered in 1962 (alleging a date of first use in 1961). The registration was deemed abandoned in 1987 when the registrant failed to renew it.

* SYRACUSE CHINA 1871 (& design), Reg. No. 841,235 applied to “dinnerware and tableware made of China” and was registered in 1967 (alleging a date of first use in 1966). The registration was deemed abandoned in 1989 when the registrant failed to renew it.

* SYRACUSE CHINA CORPORATION (& design), Reg. No. 975,004 applied to “dinnerware and tableware made of China” and was registered in 1973 (alleging a date of first use in 1972). The registration was deemed abandoned in 1994 when the registrant failed to renew it.
Protection of “Weak” Marks

Also interesting about this proposed Bill is the following draft “finding:” “Trademarks that describe some feature or quality of the goods or that are based on someone’s name or a geographic term are considered to be ‘weak’ and thus are not protectable under trademark law. However, once the trademark owner can demonstrate substantial sales, advertising or other public awareness of a weak trademark, the trademark will be considered distinctive and can be registered with the [US Patent & Trademark Office].” H.R. 3499 § 2 (2).

The statement that “weak” marks are not protectable under U.S. trademark law perhaps goes too far, and despite the second sentence of these draft findings, suggests that these marks may never be protectable. Certainly, in any litigation or other dispute involving a “weak” mark, the parties will debate whether the owner of that mark has demonstrated secondary meaning or acquired distinctiveness, such that the consuming public would automatically associate such a “weak” mark used in connection with the relevant goods or services with the owner of the mark – in other words as a “source indicator”. Descriptive marks such as these can acquire distinctiveness and obtain a level of trademark protection that seems to somewhat be undervalued in the draft “findings” in this Bill.

In addition, this Bill appears to focus only on the ability to register a trademark with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Under U.S. law, trademarks can be protected from misappropriation and confusingly similar use by someone else based on the actual use of the earlier mark in commerce. There is no requirement that every trademark be registered before protection from infringement is available. Instead, senior rights may even exist for unregistered marks in certain circumstances. Notably, the Bill contemplates amending the civil liability provisions relating to marks that are either registered or unregistered – including those known as “common law marks”.

There are definitely benefits to filing an application for trademark registration – including the presumption that the registrant can expand the use of its mark nationwide on the goods or services described in the registration. Even the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office will only register a mark if there has been bona fide use in U.S. commerce, as demonstrated by evidence submitted by the applicant through the application process. See Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (“TMEP”) § 901.01 (quoting statutory language: “The term ‘use in commerce’ means the bona fide use of a mark in the ordinary course of trade, and not made merely to reserve a right in a mark.”).

In addition, even after registration, if a registrant stops using the mark in U.S. commerce, the registration can be cancelled or narrowed to only those goods or services on which the mark continues to be in active use. See TMEP § 1604.10 (explaining requirements to maintain a registration, which will be cancelled if continued use cannot be demonstrated).


Upon introduction, the Bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. At present, no hearings are scheduled for the Bill. It is unclear whether there will be any further action taken on the Bill.

It also appears that this issue of misidentification of geographic source of origin might not be a pivotal issue for Rep. Maffei. Press releases relating to the various legislative initiatives that he has sponsored or speeches that he has delivered are available on his web site, but none of them relate to this Bill (at least, none had been posted at the time that this blog entry was prepared). Instead, the only relevant reference appears to be Rep. Maffei’s June 23rd announcement that the Syracuse China Company was eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance.

Current status of the Bill can be found through the legislature’s search service,