Consumer Group Protests Google Settlement

Mon, Apr 6, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    With May 5 the deadline for filing objections to Google’s settlement with the AAP and the Authors Guild, the consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has sent a letter to the Justice Department asking the department to delay the settlement, which still needs court approval. The letter cites two objections to the agreement: a so-called “most favored nation” clause and the mechanism to deal with orphan works. The group maintains that because the settlement was negotiated between Google and the AAP/authors, there was no one representing the public interest in what Consumer Watchdog calls an agreement that will transform publishing.

    According to Consumer Watchdog, because the settlement guarantees that Google would be offered the same terms from the Book Rights Registry that any competitor might receive, competitors would be discouraged from establishing a competing service. The most favored clause should be eliminated to remove barriers to entry, the letter states, adding that “it is inappropriate for the resolution of a class action lawsuit to effectively create an anti-compete clause.”

    In dealing with orphan works, Consumer Watchdog wants the protections granted to Google about potential exposure to rightsholders who may file claims to works that appear in a database extended to any company that wants to compete with Google under the same terms given to Google.

     The letter, signed by consumer advocate John Simpson, closes by charging that the settlement “furthers the narrow agenda of Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. We call on the Justice Department to intervene and bring about changes that will truly serve the public interest.”

    Other groups are expected to file challenges to the settlement before the May 5 deadline.

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