Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Legal arguments pan, praise Google's book deal; Associated Press, 9/8/09

Michael Liedtke via Associated Press; Legal arguments pan, praise Google's book deal:

"Tuesday's legal sparring came on the deadline for written arguments about a $125 million settlement that would entrust Google with a digital database containing millions of copyright-protected books, including titles no longer being published.

But at least one more key document is expected before U.S. District Judge Denny Chin holds an Oct. 7 hearing in New York to review the settlement. The Justice Department has until Sept. 18 to file its brief, which may provide some inkling on whether antitrust regulators have determined if the deal would hurt competition.

The settlement, reached last October, has raised the specter of Google becoming even more powerful than it already has become as the owner of the Internet's most popular search engine and most lucrative advertising network.

Those concerns represented the crux of a 32-page brief written by Silicon Valley attorney Gary Reback, who helped the Justice Department pursue an antitrust case against Microsoft's bundling of personal computer software in the 1990s.

Reback filed the brief Tuesday on behalf of the Open Book Alliance, which includes Microsoft, Yahoo, Internet bookseller Amazon.com Inc., other companies and nonprofit organizations. Microsoft and Yahoo, which compete with Google in search, also filed separate arguments; Amazon submitted its protest last week.

The alliance contends Google conspired with the author and publishing groups that sued the Mountain View-based company to make it more difficult for competitors to create similar indexes of digital books. The alliance contends that competitive barriers would empower Google, authors and publishers to the raise prices of digital books well above the current standard of about $10 per volume.

"The publishing industry desperately wants to raise the retail price point for digital books," Reback wrote for the alliance. "The book settlement permits them to achieve that by working with Google.""


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