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Justice Department Urges Judge To reject Google’s Digital Book Settlement


Sat, Sep 19, 2009 at 11:48 am

    cite concerns that the agreement with authors and publishers could run
    afoul of antitrust and copyright laws. But they also propose
    modifications to make the settlement pass muster.

    The Justice Department late Friday urged a federal judge to reject a
    controversial settlement between Google Inc., the Authors Guild and the
    American Assn. of Publishers, citing concerns that the agreement could
    run afoul of antitrust, class action and copyright laws.

    At the
    same time, Justice officials proposed modifications that would make the
    settlement pass muster, saying the proposal should not be entirely
    derailed because it has "potential for important societal benefits."

    said that it was "considering the points raised by the department" and
    that it looked forward "to addressing them as the court proceedings

    The issue concerns an ambitious project that Google
    launched in 2004 to scan millions of books and make their contents
    searchable online. In 2006, the Authors Guild and the publishers filed
    lawsuits, claiming copyright violation.

    They settled a year
    ago, agreeing to create an independent body to collect 67% of the
    revenue generated by selling access to the digital collection created
    by Google and distribute the money to authors and publishers.

    hearing before Federal District Court Judge Denny Chin has been
    scheduled for Oct. 7 to determine whether the pact should be approved.

    recent months, many groups have voiced concerns over whether the
    agreement would give Google too much pricing power and whether the
    Mountain View, Calif., company would adequately safeguard reader

    Consumer Watchdog praised the move by Justice
    officials. "This is a victory for consumers and the broader public
    interest," said a group advocate, John Simpson.

    Because the
    Justice Department is not a party in the case, it has limited influence
    in whether the settlement is ultimately approved by the court.

    the brief foreshadows what, if any, regulatory actions the department
    might take should the settlement receive Judge Chin’s blessing.

    brief is urging the judge against approving it outright or rejecting it
    outright," said James Grimmelmann, a professor at New York Law School.
    "The overall message from Justice is that there are a lot of good
    things in this settlement. It doesn’t work in its current form, but
    it’s fixable."

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