U.S. to File Concerns Over Google Book Pact
he Justice Department is expected Friday to outline a range of concerns it has about a settlement that Google Inc. struck with authors and publishers over the rights to distribute digital copies of certain works, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Justice Department will submit those concerns in a filing to the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, which must decide whether to approve agreement, the people said.
The filing is likely to discuss the department’s concern that parts of the agreement may hurt the interests of other parties, such as Google’s potential competitors in the nascent digital-book market, the people said.
For example, the Justice Department is concerned that one of the agreement’s features — a “registry” that governs aspects of the agreement such as some pricing and payment distributions — could allow publishers to set prohibitively high prices for their works, said one of the people familiar with the matter.
Google in October 2008 struck the agreement with authors and publishers to resolve separate lawsuits the groups filed against it for scanning books without seeking permission.
The settlement would give Google the rights to distribute digital copies of millions of out-of-print books that it has scanned in exchange for sharing revenue from the services it creates around those books.
Many authors, publishers and public-interest groups have endorsed the settlement, saying it will increase access to books and create new business models for authors and publishers. No major U.S. publishers have come out against it, although some publishing associations in Europe have raised concerns.
The settlement has raised objections among others, including Amazon.com Inc. and a number of state attorneys general, who have filed briefs with the court arguing that the deal gives Google an unfair advantage.
The Justice Department believes some of its concerns can be addressed through continuing negotiations, according to one of the people familiar.
Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker reaffirmed the company’s defense of the settlement as “unlocking access to millions of books in the U.S. while giving authors and publishers new ways to distribute their work.”
Some sort of filing was anticipated from the Justice Department, which told the court earlier this summer that it was looking into the agreement.
On Thursday, Google also said it struck a deal with On Demand Books to allow consumers to purchase physical copies of public domain books Google has digitized. On Demand Books makes technology called the Espresso Book Machine that prints paperback books from digital versions.
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