A US judge has ruled that a deal between Google and the publishing industry to allow out-of-print books to be displayed online is flawed and cannot stand.
District judge Denny Chin said that the deal, which would have seen Google pay $125m a year in royalties in exchange for scanning the books and placing them online, was weighted too much in Google's favour.
The arrangement would give the search firm an uncompetitive advantage, according to the judge, and would not allow the authors of the books to refuse permission for their works to be broadcast.
"This is clearly disappointing, but we'll review the court's decision and consider our options," Hilary Ware, Google's managing counsel, told V3.co.uk in a statement.
"Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the US today. Regardless of the outcome, we'll continue to work to make more of the world's books discoverable online through Google Books and Google eBooks."
Google's plans to build a huge online library have been strongly opposed in some quarters ever since the plan was announced in 2004.
"We took this stand because we believe Google's engineers are out of control. They take first and ask permission later," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, which took part in the case.
"One company should not have control over the body of world literature. Today's victory hopefully is the beginning of more scrutiny over Google's business practices and use of its monopolistic position online."
Judge Chin did, however, say that the deal as it stood is not without merit, and recommended that both sides should work to hammer out a fairer deal that would be more acceptable to the court.
"Although this Alexandria of out-of-print books appears lost at the moment we'll be studying Judge Chin's decision and plan on talking to the publishers and Google with the hope that we can arrive at a settlement within the court's parameters that makes sense for all parties," said Authors Guild president Scott Turow.
"Regardless of the outcome of our discussions with publishers and Google, opening up far greater access to out-of-print books through new technologies that create new markets is an idea whose time has come."
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