Tuesday, September 8, 2009

11th-Hour Filings Oppose Google’s Book Settlement; New York Times, 9/8/09

Miguel Helft via New York Times; 11th-Hour Filings Oppose Google’s Book Settlement:

"“Legal scholars say that Judge Chin will have to address not only whether the settlement is fair to the authors, publishers and rights holders covered by it, but also whether it benefits the public at large.

“The number and quality of opposition filings is very unusual,” said Jay Tidmarsh, a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School. “The court is going to have to look at the public interest in the settlement.”

The agreement, which would bring millions of rarely seen books online, has clear benefits to readers and authors. But scholars say the judge is likely to weigh those benefits against arguments that the settlement would limit competition. Opponents say it would give Google a quasi-exclusive license to profit from millions of out-of-print books and create a consortium that would have power to set prices for digital books. Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have vigorously disputed those claims, but the claims are being investigated by the Justice Department...

If the judge has some significant concerns, it is much more likely that he would invite the parties to address those concerns rather than reject the agreement,” said Andrew I. Gavil, a law professor at Howard University. Professor Gavil said that Judge Chin was likely to give special consideration to the opinion of the Justice Department, which has until Sept. 18 to make its views known. A hearing on the settlement is scheduled for Oct. 7...

Google should be ordered to license the database with all attendant rights to a number of competitors, under the supervision of the Justice Department,” Mr. Reback wrote in the brief. He traced the birth of Silicon Valley to a similar “compulsory license” mandated by the Justice Department. “Silicon Valley exists precisely because the Antitrust Division ordered AT&T to license its key invention, the transistor, for nominal payments,” he wrote.

Defenders of the agreement say the antitrust concerns are unfounded, and argue that others besides Google could obtain similar licenses without any mandates from the court."


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