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Google E-Book Bid Still Under Fire

By UNITED KINGDOM PRESS ASSOCIATION

Fri, Jan 29, 2010 at 1:37 pm

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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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