The settlement that would give Google the ability to create a massive digital library of out-of-print books is facing another round of criticism, as the deadline passed today for briefs to be filed in federal district court in New York City.
Google entered into a class-action settlement with authors and publishers in 2008, but revised it after critics, including the Justice Department, complained that it violated antitrust and copyright law. Objectors had until today to file briefs discussing the changes, and many sounded similar themes.
Read all of the briefs here.
Google competitor Amazon.com and an organization called Internet Archive, which is working on its own digital library, said the changes the parties made to the initial settlement were largely cosmetic, because the settlement still gave Google a de facto monopoly over out-of-print works whose copyright holder couldn’t be found.
The objectors also said that the formula the parties created to set book prices violated antitrust laws. ”The changes made by the parties fail to cure any of [the settlement's] fatal defects,” Amazon said in its filing. “The antitrust problems of price-fixing, exclusive dealing and cartel structure persist.”
A Google spokesperson said: “This is another step in the approval process of the settlement. There have been many organizations and individuals who have filed their support of the amended settlement agreement with the Court. They believe, as we do, that the settlement will open access to millions of books.”
Many opponents have urged Congress to get involved. The Open Book Alliance, a coalition of organizations and companies that includes Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo, said in its filing: ”The Court’s procedures are ill-suited for resolution of what is now at stake in this matter -– rewriting the copyright law, restructuring the publishing industry, and maintaining a competitive search market.”
But several staffers on the Senate and House Judiciary committees told Main Justice that no immediate action on legislation related to the so-called orphan works was likely, especially before a Feb. 18 court hearing on the settlement.
The Open Book Alliance is advised by Gary Reback, who pushed the government to investigate Microsoft in the 1990s. The group’s filing lashes out at Google’s revisions: “The paltry proposals offered by the parties for amending the Settlement –- truly, a disdainful response to the vast outpouring of global criticism -– change little, but clarify much,” the group said in its filing.