DOJ Urges Changes To Google Book Deal

Sat, Sep 19, 2009 at 9:53 am

    The Justice Department weighed in on Google’s plan
    to create the world’s largest digital library and bookstore late
    Friday, telling a New York federal court that it should press for
    changes to a pending $125 million deal in a class-action lawsuit
    involving the Internet giant, authors and publishers. The government
    said it has concerns about the arrangement, which stemmed from a 2005
    suit, but a properly structured deal could have societal benefits.

    DOJ told U.S. Judge Denny Chin who has scheduled a
    hearing for Oct. 7, that the parties should consider the following
    changes: imposing limitations on open-ended provisions for future
    licensing; eliminating potential conflicts among class members;
    providing additional protections for unknown rights holders; addressing
    concerns of foreign authors and publishers; eliminating joint-pricing
    mechanisms among publishers and authors; and providing a way for
    Google’s competitors to gain comparable access.

    The U.S. government’s top copyright official warned last week that
    the settlement would encroach on Congress’ role in setting copyright
    policy and would let Google "engage in a number of indisputable acts of
    copyright infringement." Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters testified alongside fans and foes of the proposal during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said the deal complies with copyright law and will lower barriers to entry for competitors.

    Open Book Alliance, a group formed by interests who oppose the current
    settlement plan, said it was pleased with DOJ’s action. Making books
    searchable, readable and downloadable can unlock huge amounts of
    cultural knowledge but the arrangement as drafted is the wrong way to
    go about making that promise a reality, the group said. One of Google’s
    chief critics, a nonprofit called Consumer Watchdog, said even if DOJ’s
    concerns are addressed, the settlement should not be implemented.

    Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers
    issued a joint statement saying DOJ’s filing "recognizes the value the
    settlement can provide by unlocking access to millions of books in the
    U.S. We are considering the points raised by the department and look
    forward to addressing them as the court proceedings continue."

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