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Opponents Submit Final Objections To Google Book Project

September 9, 2009

Opponents of a class action lawsuit settlement that would allow Google to dramatically expand its library of digital books submitted a flurry of last-minute court arguments on Tuesday.

The critics, which include Microsoft, privacy advocates, the French government, DC Comics, the National Writers Union, the National Coalition of Authors and others, object to the Internet giant’s aggressive plans to scan and sell millions of books online.

Microsoft, Yahoo and other opponents have also criticized the settlement as a conspiracy that would establish a monopoly that will increase book prices and make Google’s online search engine even more powerful.

But Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a group that supports the settlement, said Google’s plan would “increase competition” and “encourage others to enter the market and compete with Google.”

Google agreed to the class action settlement last October, as a result of a copyright infringement suit filed in 2005 by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).

According to the terms of the settlement, Google will pay $125 million to resolve outstanding claims and create an independent “Book Rights Registry,” which would use sales and advertising revenue to compensate authors and publishers who agree to digitize their books.

A “fairness hearing” on the settlement is set for October 7 in a U.S. District Court in New York.   Tuesday is the final day for the filing of briefs in the case.

In addition to gaining court approval, Google must also have its plan pass anti-trust scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Germany has already registered its opposition to the plan, while the French government filed documents on Tuesday saying the project does not adhere to “intellectual property law or to competition law and constitutes a threat to cultural diversity,” the AFP news agency reported.

Microsoft, which abandoned its own plans to create a digital library last year, said the settlement “must be rejected,” and that it “confers on Google a new monopoly by authorizing Google (and Google alone) to engage in the wholesale commercial exploitation of entire copyrighted books.”

DC Comics, which publishes the Batman and Superman comics, said in its filed objections that “instead of respecting the interests of copyright owners, Google appears to have applied a ‘copy first and negotiate later’ approach.”

The settlement would “essentially provide it with legal rights to precisely that which it sought to take illegally,” the company said.

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