Opposition to Google books deal


THREE POWERFUL technology companies have banded together to oppose Google’s proposed settlement with the Authors’ Guild and the Association of American Publishers over the search giant’s book-scanning project.

Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon.com have signed on to a coalition being assembled by the Internet Archive and Silicon Valley anti-trust lawyer Gary Reback, according to Peter Brantley, director of the Internet Archive, a non-profit organisation that is trying to build a free digital library of internet content.

Though the coalition has not been formally announced, several library and journalism associations have already agreed to take part, including the New York Library Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. The group is expected to issue a joint statement next week.

The coalition’s members include players who would normally sit at opposite sides of the table. Mr Reback, for example, is known for instigating the anti-trust efforts against Microsoft. That they have agreed to join forces suggests the magnitude of the concern raised by Google’s book-scanning efforts, Mr Brantley said.

“By having a set of organisations speaking together, we can demonstrate the seriousness which we all confront by the issues raised by the proposal,” he said.

“We are all united in our understanding of the core issues, such as its impact on competitiveness and the threat to reader privacy.”

The settlement, reached last October and subject to court approval, would allow Google to continue to digitise millions of out-of-print books, with the help of several of the largest libraries in the US. The deal sets up a way for authors and publishers to get 70 per cent of the sale of the books, with Google keeping 30 per cent. It also lets Google sell advertisements around book searches involving out-of-print books that are still under copyright protection.

With a September 4th deadline for comments on the settlement approaching, a growing number of parties have voiced their opposition in recent weeks. Much of the concern stems from fear Google would have the power to raise prices to prohibitive levels or that it would not guarantee the privacy of its readers. – (LA Times service)