Friday, August 21, 2009

Amazon, Microsoft & Yahoo
to fight Google book deal


Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo are planning to join a coalition of nonprofit groups, individuals and library associations to oppose a proposed class-action settlement giving Google the rights to commercialize digital copies of millions of books.

The settlement between Google and groups representing authors and publishers, which is awaiting court approval, has attracted opposition from various entities in the book world. The Department of Justice has also opened an antitrust investigation into the implications of the agreement.

Gary Reback, an antitrust lawyer who is acting as counsel to the coalition, said that Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo had all agreed to join the group, which is tentatively called the Open Book Alliance. The Alliance is led by Reback and the Internet Archive, a nonprofit group that has been critical of the settlement. The Alliance plans to make a case to the Justice Department that the arrangement is anticompetitive. Members of the Alliance will most likely file objections with the court independently.

“This deal has enormous, far-reaching anticompetitive consequences that people are just beginning to wake up to,” said Reback. In the 1990s, he helped persuade the Justice Department to file its landmark antitrust case against Microsoft.

Some library associations and groups representing authors are also planning to join the coalition, he said. Earlier this summer, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos criticized the settlement.

Google reached the sweeping settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers in October. The two groups had sued Google for copyright infringement in 2005 over the company’s plan to digitize millions of books from libraries, alleging copyright violations. The agreement sets up a mechanism for Google, along with a registry operated by authors and publishers, to display and sell millions of books online.

The parties in the settlement have hailed it as a huge public good, arguing that the agreement will make millions of out-of-print books widely available online and in libraries across the country. They have said it will also create new ways for millions of authors to make money from digital copies of their books, and that other companies could secure deals similar to the one Google obtained under the settlement. (info from the NY Times)

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