Press Release

Consumer Watchdog Praises Department Of Justice Action In Google Books Case, Warns Major Issues Including Lack Of Privacy Guarantees Remain Problematic

CONTACT: cell 310 292-1902

Fri, Sep 18, 2009 at 11:33 am

    SANTA MONICA, CA — Consumer Watchdog praised the U.S. Justice Department for objecting to the proposed Google Books settlement in a brief the department filed in U.S. District Court tonight.

    The nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer group had asked the Justice Department to intervene in the case on antitrust grounds last April. Justice announced it was investigating in July. Justice’s objections tonight went beyond antitrust concerns.

    Read the Department of Justice brief here.

    “This is a victory for consumers and the broad public interest,” said John M. Simpson, consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog. “Consumer Watchdog supports digitization and digital libraries in a robust competitive market open to all organizations, both for-profit and non-profit, that offer fundamental privacy guarantees to users. But a single entity cannot be allowed to build a digital library based on a monopolistic advantage when its answer to serious questions from responsible critics boils down to: “Trust us. Our motto is ‘Don’t be evil.’”

    “As the Justice brief makes clear, the proposed class-action settlement is monumentally overbroad and invites the court to overstep its legal jurisdiction, to the detriment of consumers and the public,”  Simpson said. “The proposed settlement agreement would strip rights from millions of absent class members, worldwide, in violation of national and international copyright law, for the sole benefit of Google.”

    Consumer Watchdog stressed that even if Google, The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers agree to change their deal to overcome Justice’s antitrust objections, the settlement still should not be implemented.

    “Solving the antitrust problem is only piece of the problem,” said Simpson. “Another deal-breaker should be the complete lack of privacy guarantees. Google, under pressure from the Federal Trade Commission, released a so-called ‘privacy policy’, but what’s to stop them from changing it the day after a settlement is approved on a corporate whim?”

    Consumer Watchdog asked the Justice Department last April to intervene in the Google Books settlement because of antitrust concerns. Kasowitz, Benson filed an amicus brief in New York’s Southern U.S. District Court opposing the deal on Consumer Watchdog’s behalf. Last week Simpson was one of eight witnesses to testify about the deal to the House Judiciary Committee.

    Read the brief here.

    Read the testimony and see a video of the hearing here.

    The case in U.S. District Court’s Southern District of New York stems from a suit brought by The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers.  Judge Denny Chin has said that around 400 briefs have been filed in the case and that he may have to limit the number of speakers at the fairness hearing set for Oct. 7.

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    Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, Ca.  Our website is:

    Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP is a national law firm with over 300 lawyers specializing in high stakes, complex litigation.  The firm has offices in New York, Newark, Houston, Atlanta, Miami and San Francisco. For more information, visit
    Contact: Daniel Fetterman, 212-506-1934, [email protected] or Peter Toren, 212-506-1986, [email protected].

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