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Google E-Book Bid Still Under Fire

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Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Google’s bid to secure the digital rights to millions of books
    remains under attack from rivals and other critics trying to block a
    revised legal settlement that would unlock a vast electronic library.

    The
    opposition fired its latest salvo on Thursday, the deadline for filing
    objections with US District Judge Denny Chin in New York.

    The
    critics contend Google’s $125 million (£77.5 million) settlement of a
    class action lawsuit with US publishers and authors would thwart
    competition and drive up prices in the budding electronic book market.

    Opponents
    also warn the digital books will give Google an important tool for
    attracting more traffic and building upon its already commanding lead
    in the internet’s lucrative search and advertising market.

    Google
    argues the agreement will benefit society by making it easier to see
    and potentially buy hard-to-find books that have only been available in
    print in a handful of libraries.

    The company, based in Mountain
    View, has made digital copies of more than 12 million books during the
    past five years, but can’t display most of them until copyright issues
    are resolved.

    Mr Chin has scheduled a February 18 hearing to
    consider whether he will grant final approval to the complex settlement
    that was first worked out 15 months ago.

    Google revised the
    agreement in November, two months after the Department of Justice
    warned the original settlement probably would violate anti-trust and
    copyright laws. The government has until February 4 to file its opinion
    about the revised settlement.

    The most strident criticism to the
    changes so far has come from the same foes that have spearheaded the
    resistance since last summer. The opposing camp includes the Open Book
    Alliance, a group including Google rivals Microsoft Corporation, Yahoo
    and Amazon.com, as well as Consumer Watchdog, a group that fights abusive business practices.

    More
    people and industry groups have lined up to support the settlement
    since Google agreed to narrow the settlement’s scope. The new backers
    include the families of author John Steinbeck and songwriter Woody
    Guthrie, as well as publishing groups from Canada, Australia and the
    United Kingdom.

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