Google book settlement “turns copyright law on its head”

If all the litigation and consternation with China doesn’t have a negative effect on Google’s performance, especially through this difficult year, I would say they will weather anything that comes their way.  This just in on how the Justice Department plans to deal with copyright laws.

Microsoft, Amazon, Others Urge Judge To Reject Google Pact

Feb 18, 2010 11:29:55 (ET)
 

 


   By Chad Bray
   Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
 

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)–Microsoft Inc. (MSFT), Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and others urged a federal judge Thursday to reject a revised settlement among Google Inc. (GOOG) and publisher and author groups over digital copies of books.

At a fairness hearing Thursday, lawyers for Microsoft and Amazon were among a group of objectors who spoke against the pact, telling U.S. District Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan that the settlement would give Google an unfair monopoly over a large number of unclaimed published works and violates well-established copyright law in the U.S.

The settlement "turns copyright law on its head," said David Nimmer, a lawyer for Amazon.

In November, Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers submitted a revised agreement that would allow Google to distribute millions of digital copies of books online, but narrowed the number of books covered by the pact.

The revised settlement was designed to allay concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Justice and others that the original pact granted broad rights and immunities to Google and was anti-competitive. The Justice Department is expected to speak at the hearing later Thursday.

Chin, the district judge, said he wouldn’t rule Thursday on the settlement and that he wants to write an opinion at a later date outlining his views.

"To end the suspense, I am not going to rule today," the judge said. "There is too much to digest."

The hearing is expected to last several hours. Lawyers for the governments of Germany and France also are expected to speak in opposition to the settlement later Thursday.

Thomas Rubin, chief counsel for intellectual property strategy at Microsoft, said the settlement would unjustly give Google exclusive access to hundreds of millions of unclaimed published works.

The pact, as written, "will have a significant negative impact on competition" in the area of Internet search and will preclude competing search engines from linking to the unclaimed works.

"It can’t possibly be good for competition when the vast majority of works are in the hands of an already dominant player," Rubin said.

Microsoft operates a competing search engine, Bing.com, and owns a technical publisher, Microsoft Press.

However, Jennifer B. Coplan, a lawyer for Sony Electronics Inc., spoke in support of the deal, saying the settlement will provide a "substantial benefit" to e-book marketplace.

Sony Electronics, a unit of Sony Corp. (SNE), makes portable devices to read electronic copies of books and its products include rivals to Amazon’s Kindle e-reader.

The settlement should make it easier for the marketplace to identify rights holders for so-called "orphan" works, Coplan said. Also, Google is expected to offer the scanned books in a format that can be read on a large variety of electronic devices, Coplan said.

-By Chad Bray, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-227-2017; chad.bray@dowjones.com

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