As expected, a number of prominent groups opposed to Google’s Book Search settlement have filed their court briefs on Tuesday, the last day for filling such briefs, stating their concerns.
This ranged from terming the deal as anti competitive to labelling it as detrimental to consumer interests. Amongst those who opposed the deal include the likes of Microsoft, Open Book Alliance and Electronic Frontier Foundation and even some well-known authors.
Critics of the deal argue that the Google's Book Search settlement is quite akin to a cartelization effort similar to one which involved John Rockerfeller's Standard Oil that eventually resulted in the Sherman Act's antitrust laws.
Microsoft on the other hand argues that the proposed settlement fundamentally goes beyond the legitimate role of a copyright lawsuit which normally revolves around resolving an infringement and essentially gives Google right to access millions of books.
The Open Book Alliance’s brief, says that "Google and the plaintiff publishers secretly negotiated for 29 months to produce a horizontal price fixing combination, effected and reinforced by a digital book distribution monopoly. Their guile has cleared much of the field in digital book distribution, shielding Google from meaningful competition."
The document was authored by Gary Reback, a lawyer who played a major role in prosecuting Microsoft in the 1990’s for anti competitive behaviour.
In its defence Google has argued that anyone who plans to digitize books can freely do so by making a deal with the Books Rights Registry which will be set up as part of the settlement and hence it will not have any monopolistic rights.
The books settlement would essentially open the floodgates for millions of books to be made available as digital files. Like for the Beatles, there is a chance that pirates would be able to copy and spread the electronic books worldwide. On top of that, Google could become as mean as Amazon and start squeezing publishers for revenues.
(The New York Times)