Trials & Litigation

Google Books Settlement May Violate Antitrust Law, DOJ Contends

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A pending settlement between Google Inc. and groups representing authors and publishers could violate antitrust law, the U.S. Department of Justice says in a letter to the federal judge in the Southern District of New York who is overseeing the case.

Although the DOJ has made no finding that antitrust law would, in fact, be violated by the planned settlement concerning Google’s plan to make a large number of books available online, it is investigating the settlement, reports the New York Times.

“This is the next step in the notion that this is a serious issue, so serious that the Justice Department needs to notify the court,” attorney Gary Reback of Carr & Ferrell tells the newspaper. “It sets the stage to for the department to come into the court to present a problem.”

A spokeswoman for the DOJ says the antitrust division “is investigating the possibility of anticompetitive practices involving digital book intellectual property rights and distribution,” but declined to discuss the matter further, reports CNet.

In a written statement, Google says: “The Department of Justice and several state attorneys general have contacted us to learn more about the impact of the settlement, and we are happy to answer their questions. It’s important to note that this agreement is non-exclusive and if approved by the court, stands to expand access to millions of books in the U.S.”

Additional coverage: (Oct. 2008): “$125M Google Settlement Paves Way for Online Book Publishing”

Ars Technica: “Publisher: Google book settlement flawed, but essential”

Financial Times: “Congress pressed to act on Google book settlement”

Technology (Los Angeles Times): “Authors Guild defends Google Books settlement”

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