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8/21/2009
03:41 PM
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Microsoft, Yahoo Unite Against Google Book Search

A new coalition opposed to Google's Book Search settlement has been formed.

Microsoft and Yahoo have confirmed that they have joined the Open Book Alliance, a newly formed group opposed to the Google Book settlement.

Amazon also reportedly joined the coalition, which is expected to make an announcement next week. Amazon, however, declined to comment.

The Open Book Alliance is a distinct organization from the Open Content Alliance, a group with similar goals created by Yahoo, the Internet Archive, and many universities.

Last October, Google reached a settlement with the authors and publishers who brought a lawsuit against Google for scanning books for its search index without permission. The settlement awaits approval from the judge overseeing the case. The U.S. Department of Justice is also weighing whether the settlement merits antitrust action.

A fairness hearing to consider approval of the settlement is scheduled for October 7. The deadline for objections to the settlement is September 4.

The major areas of contention revolve around issues of privacy, exclusivity, and indemnification from liability. Critics of the settlement want Google to commit to: offering online readers the same privacy protection enjoyed by offline readers; an open registry system rather than one controlled by two publishing industry groups; and indemnification from copyright claims for those who want to scan orphaned works -- books for which the copyright holder cannot be found -- as Google has done.

In May, Google said that it planned "to build and support a digital book ecosystem to allow our partner publishers to make their books available for purchase from any Web-enabled device," showing that Google Book Search will become a platform for Google book sales. This presumably explains Amazon's reported decision to join the coalition opposing the settlement.

To Google, Microsoft's public opposition seems incongruous because the company shuttered its Live Book Search project last year "to focus on search verticals with high commercial intent, such as travel."

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