While most people chiming in on the Google Books settlement by the Tuesday deadline are concerned the Google’s potential dominance in digital books, a handful of organizations have launched an attack on the Internet giant’s handling of privacy for readers of its digitized books. Basically they say readers won’t have any.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed an objection (Download EFF's objection) Tuesday to the settlement on behalf of authors who write about non-mainstream topics like drug legalization, homosexuality, erotica or overthrowing governments.
“A digital books future where readers are going to be tracked is a digital books future where people will be afraid to read books on sensitive subjects,” said the EFF’s legal director Cindy Cohn.
Chill with us, after the jump.
The EFF argues that if Google doesn’t do enough to protect the privacy of readers, it will have a “chilling” effect on sales of those fringe-topic books. That not only doesn’t benefit the authors of those books under the settlement, it also violates First Amendment case law, Cohn argues.
Other groups concerned by privacy issues are: The Center for Democracy and Technology, which filed an amicus brief, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed a motion to intervene, asking that the “public interest” be a party to the lawsuit, and the American Library Association, which filed a brief earlier this year supporting the settlement, but at the same time noted privacy as an issue that can’t be ignored.
“It’s a nice chorus of people all saying the same thing: This is too big and too important to let privacy be an afterthought,” Cohn said.
The EFF recruited a group of authors who are in the settlement’s class to ensure its objection would be read by Judge Denny Chin of the Southern District of New York, who is presiding over the case.
“Given the sheer weight of paper that would fall on Judge Chin’s head, we didn’t want to be in the amicus briefs,” Cohn said.
Cohn is no stranger warrantless eavesdropping issues: She’s also heading a lawsuit against AT&T for violating wiretapping laws for the government’s secret surveillance program following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Cohn said the Google settlement has uncovered how outdated and messy our copyright laws are. She expects that regardless of how Judge Chin rules, the case will be reviewed by the Second Circuit and perhaps the Supreme Court.
“I don’t think it’s digitization’s fault, it’s copyright’s fault: It’s getting in the way of something most people would agree is a good thing,” Cohn said.
— Amanda Royal
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