Thursday, July 2, 2009

U.S. Confirms Investigation of Google Books Deal; New York Times, 7/2/09

Miguel Helft via New York Times; U.S. Confirms Investigation of Google Books Deal:

"Antitrust experts said the letter was the latest indication that the Justice Department is seriously examining complaints that the agreement would grant Google the exclusive right to profit from millions of so-called “orphan works,” books that are out of print and whose authors or rights holders are unknown or cannot be found.

This is the next step in the notion that this is a serious issue, so serious that the Justice Department needs to notify the court,” said Gary L. Reback, a lawyer at Carr & Ferrell, and the author of a recent book on antitrust issues. “It sets the stage for the department to come into the court to present a problem.”...

In a response, United States District Judge Denny Chin of the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, who is charged with reviewing the settlement, set a deadline of Sept. 18 for the government to present its views in writing.

Judge Chin has scheduled a hearing on the settlement for Oct. 7 and said the government could also lay out its views orally at that time.

Opponents of the settlement hailed the department’s letter, saying it was a sign that the government was listening to their complaints.

We are heartened that the D.O.J. is taking the concerns that we have expressed seriously,” said Peter Brantley, the director of access for the Internet Archive. Mr. Brantley’s organization is spearheading an effort to digitize books from libraries and make them broadly available, in competition with Google’s own digitization project. It has argued that the settlement would make it more difficult for the Internet Archive to pursue its plan.

Google and the other parties to the settlement have vigorously defended it.

It’s important to note that this agreement is nonexclusive and, if approved by the court, stands to expand access to millions of books in the U.S.,” Gabriel Stricker, a Google spokesman, said in a statement. "

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