Google's Digital Books' Deal: List of Foes Growing

For months, Google and its partners in an agreement that would allow the company to create a big digital library remain unmoved by a rising tide of opposition. Google and its settlement partners — the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers — argued that the agreement would not harm competition, and said they were confident that it would be approved in its current form by a federal court.

But the Justice Department, in a filing on Friday, made clear that the parties were busily negotiating modifications that would address some of the concerns raised. Those negotiations are likely to accelerate now that the Justice Department has said that it too believes the settlement raises serious legal issues and has urged the court not to approve it without changes.

Legal experts say the new round of discussions, and the government’s intervention, are almost certain to delay an agreement that Google and the other parties were eager to see ratified quickly, The New York Times reports.

"We are considering the points raised by the department and look forward to addressing them as the court proceedings continue," said Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers in a joint statement.

The Justice Department acknowledged in its filing that the deal would give Google a virtually exclusive license to millions of books which are either out of print or whose rights holders are unknown - so-called 'orphan books'.

But it said that the deal would have great benefits, and that it hoped it could be amended to make it fairer - for example, by giving some of Google's competitors accass to these same orphan books. It also said that Google could improve matters by securing agreement from the rights holders for out-of-print books, rather than being allowed to go ahead by default, TG Daily reports.

In the meantime, the list of Google foes is growing. Besides Microsoft, Amazo and Yahoo! have also thrown their weight behind the Open Book Alliance, the group formed by Reback and Peter Brantley, director of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit Web-based information depository. And on Sep. 18 the U.S. Justice Dept. joined the chorus of critics, urging the court to shoot down Google's proposal in its current form.

The filing echoes fears voiced by Reback and the other parties the attorney has helped rally to the cause. Amazon, maker of the popular Kindle e-book reader, wants to avoid losing share in the nascent electronic-books market. Microsoft frets that Google will gain an unfair advantage in online advertising by having a massive, searchable library of books associated with its search engine.

The American society of Journalists and Authors, also a member of the Open Book Alliance, says it wants to prevent large publishers, several of whom side with Google, from gaining too much control over prices. "Google is not building a library, it is building a bookstore," says Siva Vaidhyanathan, associate professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia. "If this effort succeeds, it will be the dominant outlet for the sale of most of the books of the 20th century," adds Vaidhyanathan, who is finishing work on a book titled The Googlization of Everything: How One Company is Disrupting Culture, Commerce, and Community—And Why We Should Worry , BusinessWeek reports.

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