I’ve just been reading the transcript from last week’s Fairness Hearing in the Google Books case and one thing is crystal clear: The U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust investigation of Google is by no means finished.
Arguing against the proposed settlement U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General William F. Cavanaugh told U.S. Judge Denny Chin:
"With respect to the antitrust issues, you Honor, our investigation is ongoing. We thought it was appropriate to tell the court that we had this investigation and that we had these concerns."
And another important message is the depth of DOJ’s concerns. It’s not just about the unfair advantage Google would get in selling so-called "orphan works", books that are out-of-print, but whose rightsholders cannot be found. Said Cavanaugh:
"And we continue to investigate the potential impact this will have on many markets, including the search market, your Honor, in which Google already has a relatively dominant position."
Many analysts had thought that the DOJ simply looked at the original settlement and said it didn’t like it, prompting the parties to amend it. Justice still opposed the amended plan. The really important thing, though, is that Justice Department lawyers are still digging, as well they should.