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Judge Delays Hearing In Google Books Case, As Talks Accelerate

With talks to change the terms of Google’s settlement with publishers over its book-scanning project in full-force, a federal judge has delayed a long-awaited hearing in the case. Earlier this week, the Authors Guild had asked the court to delay the ‘fairness’ hearing, pending the talks which it said would “result in significant changes to the existing settlement agreement;” Google (NSDQ: GOOG) did not oppose the motion. Last Friday, the Justice Department said that it opposed the settlement, which in its current form would give Google broad control over the electronic distribution of in-copyright, out-of-print books.

And, indeed, in his order, Judge Denny Chin notes the widespread opposition to the deal — saying that it “raises significant issues, as demonstrated not only by the number of objections, but also by the fact that the objectors include countries, states, non-profit organizations, and prominent authors and law professors.” But Chin also acknowledges that the settlement could have some “benefits to society” and therefore says, “It would appear that if a fair and reasonable settlement can be struck, the public would benefit.”

It isn’t exactly clear how the settlement settlement will change, although Google has given indications that it is willing to bend; the company said earlier this month that it was now willing to let any book retailer resell access to the out-of-print books it is putting online. A new hearing in the case has not been set.