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Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon band together to oppose Google Books settlement

August 20, 2009 |  7:02 pm
Google Books
Google's settlement with authors and publishers is gaining opposition. Credit: basictheory via Flickr.

Three powerful technology companies have banded together to oppose Google's proposed settlement with the Authors Guild and the Assn. of American Publishers over the Mountain View, Calif., search giant's book scanning project.

Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon have signed on to a coalition being assembled by the Internet Archive and Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer, said Peter Brantley, director of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco nonprofit that works to build a free digital library of Internet content.

Though the coalition has not been formally announced, several participants have already agreed to take part, including the New York Library Assn., the Special Libraries Assn. and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. The group is expected to issue a joint statement next week.

The coalition's members include players who normally would be sitting at opposite sides of the table. Reback, for example, is known for instigating the antitrust efforts against Microsoft. That they have agreed to join forces suggests the magnitude of concern raised by Google's book-scanning efforts, Brantley said.

"By having a set of organizations speaking together, we can demonstrate the seriousness which we all confront by the issues raised by the proposal," Brantley said in an interview. "We are all united in our understanding of the core issues, such as its impact on competitiveness and the threat to reader privacy."

The settlement, reached last October, would allow Google to continue to digitize millions of out-of-print books, with the help of several of the nation's largest libraries. The agreement sets up a way for authors and publishers to get 70% of the sale of those books, with Google keeping 30%. It also lets Google sell ads around book searches that involve out-of-print books that are still under copyright protection.

With a Sept. 4 deadline for comments on the settlement fast approaching, a growing number of parties have voiced their opposition in recent weeks, including William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, which represents hundreds of writers, the National Writers Union and a group of professors from the University of California.

Much of the concern stems from fear that Google would have the power to raise prices to prohibitive levels or that Google would not guarantee the privacy of its readers.

The agreement is also the subject of a Justice Department antitrust inquiry.

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.

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