Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo! oppose Google book project?

Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo! are planning to join a coalition of library associations and non-profit groups in opposing Google's ambitious book scanning project, US newspapers reported on Friday.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal said the technology heavyweights have agreed to form what is tentatively being called the Open Book Alliance to challenge Google's class action settlement with authors and publishers.

The settlement, which gives the Internet search and advertising giant the rights to commercialize digital copies of millions of books, is already facing anti-trust scrutiny from the Justice Department and awaiting court approval.

Gary Reback, an anti-trust lawyer in Silicon Valley who is acting as counsel to the Alliance, told the Times the book deal "has enormous, far-reaching anticompetitive consequences that people are just beginning to wake up to."

Reback, who helped persuade the Justice Department to file its anti-trust case against Microsoft in the 1990s, said the group includes the Internet Archive, a San Francisco non-profit which maintains a digital library of websites.

The Times said the group plans to make a case to the Justice Department that the arrangement is anticompetitive.

It said that members of the Alliance were likely to file objections independently with the US District Court in New York which is set to hold a "fairness hearing" on the deal on October 7.

Microsoft and Yahoo! confirmed to the Times that they were participants while Amazon refused to comment.

Peter Brantley, a director of the Internet Archive, said the Special Libraries Association, the New York Library Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors were planning to join the group.
He told the Journal its membership would be formally disclosed in the next couple
of weeks.

Brantley said members of the coalition all see problems with the settlement and are pushing for revisions, but not all necessarily want to see it blocked.

The Google Book Search project has come under fire from a number of quarters, including from groups worried about privacy.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic of the University of California at Berkeley recently wrote to Google chief executive Eric Schmidt expressing concerns about privacy aspects of the deal.

"Given the long and troubling history of government and third party efforts to compel libraries and booksellers to turn over records about readers, it is essential that Google Books incorporate strong privacy protections in both the architecture and policies of Google Book Search," they said.

Google reached a settlement last year with the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers on a copyright infringement lawsuit they filed in 2005 over Google's plan to scan millions of books and put them online.

Under the settlement, Google agreed to establish an independent "Book Rights Registry," which will provide revenue from sales and advertising to authors and publishers who agree to digitize their books.

Microsoft shut down its own book scanning project in May of last year.


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