September 3, 2009

Rivals Gang Up On Google’s Digital Book Deal

Retail giant Amazon has now joined in the battle against Google's plan to launch a competitive digital book device, claiming that the deal would compromise copyright law and violate antitrust law.

Amazon scans books for its Kindle electronic book device once they obtain permission from the copyright holder.

The company is arguing that the court should not allow a settlement between their future competition and the Authors Guild because the deal would change copyright law by enabling Google to get its hands on "orphan works", or books without available copyright holders.

"The proposed settlement usurps the role of Congress in legislating solutions to the complex issues raised by the interplay between new technologies and the nation's copyright laws," Amazon said in its Tuesday filing.

Amazon also argued that the book registry set forth in the settlement could lead to price-fixing.

The settlement being considered would resolve a 2005 lawsuit by the Authors Guild, where the Guild and a group of publishers had accused the company of copyright infringement.

Google intends to spend $125 million on creating a Book Rights Registry, where authors and publishers could register their works and be compensated for them.

The settlement would give the authors until the end of this week to let Google know that they do not want their books to be digitized. On October 7, a Manhattan federal court will host a hearing on the approval of the settlement.

Google defended their place in the digital book world, explaining how their presence is good for the market.

"The Google Books settlement is injecting more competition into the digital books space, so it's understandable why our competitors might fight hard to prevent more competition," said Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker in an email.

"It's 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 U.S."

Google competitors Microsoft Corp and Yahoo Inc are also opposing the plan, and the American Library Association and Association of Research Libraries have asked for court oversight.

The groups are wary that the service could become a necessity for libraries, threatening monopoly pricing.

The U.S. Justice Department is looking into the deal while European Union antitrust enforcers, prompted by Germany, have said they would also examine it.

The case is Authors Guild et al v Google Inc 05-08136 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)


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