Google is the company that is world famous for its motto “Do No Evil”, but in the world of online book scanning, the Open Book Alliance isn’t ready to take them at their word. The OBA, founded by the Internet Archive, has become a united voice for those who feel Google was handed a monopoly with its $125 million settlement with publishers. The primary argument is that competitors such as the Internet Archive, are forced to negotiate individual contracts with rights holders, while Google can simply scan now, and pay later when the author makes a claim.
“If this deal goes ahead, they’re making a real shot at being the library, and the only library” claims Internet Archives founder Brewster Kahle. Until recently the Open Book Alliance has been lacking any real corporate muscle, but with the recent inclusion of Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon into the alliance, they definitely will be taken much more seriously. With the outcome of the Department of Justice investigation into the matter still pending, Google is quickly finding itself in a very public battle over digital book rights, and they seem to be making many more enemies than friends these days.
According the OBA, anti-trust and anti-competitive concerns are an important focus, but they also worry about Google’s commitment to privacy. The American Libraries Association claims “When it comes to privacy, the agreement is silent on the issue with regards to what Google intends to do with the data it collects”.
Will the addition of Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon into the alliance help ensure equality in the book scanning industry?
The U.S. Department of Justice officially confirmed on Thursday that it has launched a formal investigation into the settlement between Google Book Search and publishers over digital publishing rights. The primary focus of the case is antitrust concerns which allege that Google may have engaged in anticompetitive practices involving intellectual property rights and their distribution.
Google’s foray into the world of digital books has been a turbulent one, and though their troubles appeared to be coming to a close last November with a $125 million settlement, the DOJ appears to be less than satisfied. The concern is that following the settlement, Google was effectively given a monopoly over copyright on out of print works. Anyone outside of Google who wished to pursue publishing of these titles online would need to negotiate with the individual authors, many of whom are difficult, if not impossible to find.
Google’s counter argument has always been that the digital book market is still wide open. They claim that any potential competitor who wanted to enter the book scanning market could simply negotiate a deal with the Books Rights Registry. The Registry is a nonprofit organization that was established during the settlement to represent the interests of the authors. Critics argue that Google’s head start makes competing difficult, and many worry about having so much information in the hands of one company. Google continues to shrug off concerns, and likes to remind everyone that competition “is just a click away”.
Do you agree? Hit the jump to leave your thoughts, and to read the official letter from the DOJ.
Harvard believes that the settlement will lend a commercial shade to the Google Book Search service and that “the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher-education community and by patrons of public libraries.” However, Google can blithely continue to scan Harvard’s out-of-copyright material.
Although the $25 million settlement is yet to be ratified by a judge, the Author’s Guild delightfully labeled it the "the biggest book deal in U.S. publishing history." The deal has opened the floodgates for millions of extra titles to be part of Google Book Search. Users will have the option of purchasing a book – the revenue will be split between Google, the publisher and the author – after previewing it; the service will allow them to preview 20 percent of the pages.