Google Book Search Settlement Faces DOJ Review

The query follows the deal Google reached last year with the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild.
The settlement that Google reached with the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild over Google's digitization of copyrighted books from libraries in October may not be entirely settled.

According to a report in The New York Times, the U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the agreement to make sure it doesn't violate antitrust laws.

Such reviews aren't unusual and this one won't necessarily lead to further government action to modify or block the deal.

"This is hardly surprising, since the most obvious parallels to the settlement are ASCAP and BMI and we have engaged in nearly 70 years of antitrust 'regulation' of them," observed University of Chicago law professor Randal Picker in a blog post Wednesday.

Google declined to comment about the reported Justice Department review. But in a post on its public policy blog on Wednesday, Adam Smith, director of product management for Google Book Search, defended the project as a way to expand access to out-of-print books and as a potential source of revenue for authors and publishers.

Separately, the court overseeing the case that led to the settlement, Authors Guild vs. Google, extended the deadline for authors and publishers to opt out of the deal by four months, to Sept. 4, 2009.

The Authors Guild is advising its members not to opt out because "this settlement is a good deal for authors, bringing their out-of-print books back to commercial life."

Some groups, like the nonprofit Internet Archive, remain opposed to the settlement because they believe it would grant Google a monopoly on orphaned works -- copyrighted texts without an identifiable copyright holder. The Internet Archive asked the judge in the case earlier this month to allow it to become a party in the case in order to secure the same right to orphaned works that Google will enjoy under the settlement.

A hearing on the fairness of the settlement is planned for Oct. 7.

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