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Anti-trust Regulators Look Into Google Books

July 3, 2009

Reports say that U.S. anti-trust regulators are investigating a $125 million deal Google made with book publishers to settle copyright issues.

The deal compensates copyright holders and gives Google a percentage of online book sales and advertisements.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Attorney General William Cavanaugh said in a letter filed to the New York District Court that the deal “warrants further inquiry.”

Some fear that the deal might make Google a monopoly for online books.

“The US has reviewed public comments expressing concern that aspects of the settlement agreement may violate the Sherman [Anti-Trust] Act,” Mr Cavanaugh said.

“At this preliminary stage, the US has reached no conclusions as to the merits of those concerns or more broadly what impact the settlement may have on competition,” he added.

Google reached a deal with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers in October 2008.

It agreed to pay $125 million to create a Book Rights Registry, which allows authors and publishers to register works and receive compensation.

Google can also digitize works of people whose rights-holders are unknown, which is also known as orphan works.  Some people see the settlement as a prevention from other companies entering the digital book market.

“The Department of Justice and several state attorneys general have contacted us to learn more about the impact of the settlement, and we are happy to answer their questions,” Google said in a statement.

“It is important to note that this agreement is non-exclusive and if approved by the court stands to expand access to millions of books in the US.”

Chief executive of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, previously expressed concerns about the settlement and has said that he thinks “it needs to be revisited.”

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