Three technology heavyweights and some library associations are joining a coalition led by a prominent Silicon Valley lawyer to challenge Google Inc.'s settlement with authors and publishers.
Peter Brantley, a director at coalition co-founder Internet Archive said the group, whose members will be formally disclosed in the next couple of weeks, is being co-led by Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley lawyer involved in the Department of Justice's antitrust investigation against Microsoft Corp. last decade. Microsoft, Inc. and Yahoo Inc. have agreed to join the group. Mr. Reback did not reply to requests for comment.
Microsoft and Yahoo confirmed their participation. Amazon declined to comment.
The coalition is the latest sign that Google's rapid ascent has made it a prime target for competitors, just as Microsoft was reviled as the industry's bully in the 1990s.
Google defended the settlement, struck last October with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. "The Google Books settlement is injecting more competition into the digital books space, so it's understandable why our competitors might fight hard to prevent more competition," a Google spokesman said in a statement.
The agreement, which is subject to court approval, would resolve a class-action lawsuit that authors and publishers filed against Google in 2005. It permits Google to use works that it scanned off library shelves in its digital books service, which allows users to search the text of books and read some in fuller form. In exchange, Google has agreed to share revenue from ads and subscriptions with rights holders.
Since last year, a broad group of authors, librarians, European publishers and privacy advocates have argued that the settlement gives Google an unfair copyright immunity in offering future services around digital books that would be tough for other businesses to match.
The U.S. Justice Department and state attorneys general are continuing to investigate the settlement and have been discussing their concerns with Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The Justice Department sent the U.S. District Court reviewing the agreement a letter last month saying that it was investigating the agreement. The court gave the Justice Department until Sept. 18 to submit any concerns in writing.
But some of Google's close commercial rivals have held their fire publicly, while sharing their views with regulators.
Mr. Brantley said the coalition is designed "to develop public statements and documents" that identify the antitrust implications of the settlement, as well as other issues, such as whether the agreement does enough to protect users' privacy.
He said that the Special Libraries Association, the New York Library Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors are planning to join the group. The coalition, he said, isn't aiming to issue a coordinated filing with the court, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on the settlement. Individual members can make their own decisions about how they want to fight the settlement more formally in court, he added.
Mr. Brantley said that members of the coalition all see problems with the settlement and are pushing for revisions, but not all necessarily want to see it blocked. The Internet Archive is a non-profit based in San Francisco that is trying to build a digital library of Internet sites.
Source -