Thursday, September 24, 2009

Muchnick Letter to Attorney General: Let’s Merge Google, Freelance Settlement Talks

Irvin Muchnick – lead respondent in the freelance journalists’ class-action copyright case, Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, which will be argued before the Supreme Court on October 7 – has proposed that the Justice Department coordinate settlement negotiations in both that case and the now-delayed Google Books settlement.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Muchnick praises the government for intervening in the Google case. He says the respondent-objectors in the freelance case “are gratified that the Government’s Statement of Interest in Google went out of its way to offer cogent analysis” not only in the area of antitrust, but also in class action and copyright law. The letter spurred the parties to ask for a delay in the Google fairness hearing, which also had been scheduled for October 7 before District Court Judge Denny Chin.

Muchnick’s letter to Holder asserts that the freelance and Google cases “have striking and compelling similarities,” that the outcome of Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick will fundamentally affect a revised Google settlement, and that both judicial economy and public policy would be served by discussing the two cases as a package.

The government’s brief in Google, Muchnick goes on to say, “has put its finger on the central solution tying together both cases: the need for comprehensive, industry-wide royalty systems. In their current forms, the Freelance settlement has the comprehensiveness but not the royalty system; Google has the royalty system but not the comprehensiveness.” In its wake, Muchnick adds, “all stakeholders in the emerging copyright landscape should have their interests heard and incorporated. From a policy perspective, perhaps the most egregious lapse to date has been the disenfranchisement of librarians and information consumers in the rush to tailor litigation settlements. The resulting pastiche of proposed solutions is poorly integrated and has ill-served all parties.”

The full text of Muchnick’s letter can be viewed at


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