DOJ to investigate antitrust implications of Google book search settlement agreement

[JURIST] Officials from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] said Tuesday that the DOJ has begun looking into whether a settlement agreement [text, PDF; JURIST report] involving Internet search company Google, Inc. [corporate website] over two copyright infringement lawsuits stemming from its book-scanning initiative [Google Book Search website] violates antitrust laws. The two lawsuits were brought against Google by the Authors Guild [advocacy website], an advocacy group seeking to preserve copyright protection for authors, and by other plaintiffs including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) [organization website], the McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., Penguin Group (USA), Inc., and Simon & Schuster, Inc. [corporate websites]. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, which was reached in October, Google would pay $125 million to authors and publishers of copyrighted works. In return, Google would be allowed to display online up to 20 percent of the total pages of a copyrighted book, and would offer users an opportunity to purchase the remainder of any viewed book. DOJ lawyers have notified the parties to the settlement [NYT report] about the inquiry and have spoken with groups opposed to the settlement. The DOJ will not necessarily oppose the settlement, which still awaits court approval. Also Tuesday, the federal judge overseeing the case extended the deadline from May 5 to September 4 for authors to decide whether to join in the settlement.

The two lawsuits were originally brought against Google in 2005. In September 2005, The Authors Guild alleged [JURIST report] "massive copyright infringement at the expense of the rights of individual writers." The lawsuit accused Google of engaging in unauthorized scanning and copying of books through its Google Print Library Project [Google backgrounder; advocacy copyright analysis, PDF]. The AAP lawsuit, filed in October 2005 [JURIST report], alleged that Google infringed copyrights held by a number of publishing companies when it scanned the entire book collections of several universities to make them searchable online.

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