DoJ Objects To, Google Defends Settlement

Posted on 2/12/2010 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

In a seemingly neverending legal tennis match, the U.S. Department of Justice made formal objections to the latest version of the Google Settlement on Feb. 4. The search giant filed its response with the courts on Feb 11.

In a statement of interest filed with the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York, the DoJ said that the amended settlement in The Authors Guild Inc. et. al. v. Google Inc. makes substantial progress but fails to resolve class certification, copyright and antitrust issues. The DoJ said that the amended settlement agreement still confers significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages on Google as a single entity, thereby enabling the company to be the only competitor in the digital marketplace with the rights to distribute and otherwise exploit a vast array of works in multiple formats.

In all, the DoJ feels that the latest iteration of the settlement has the same overarching problem as the original agreement: instead of focusing on resolving the existing issue—that of having duplicated copyrighted material without permission or compensation—the settlement attempts to implement forward-looking business arrangements that exceed the scope of the case.

The U.S. Government seeks to continue working to develop solutions through which copyright holders could allow for digital use of their works by Google and others, whether through legislative or market-based activities. Numerous non-governmental entities that represent multiple industries in the U.S. and abroad—including, for example, CEPIC—have expressed similar views.

Google, however, does not feel that the agreement will hurt competition in the digital books market, according to the statement the company filed with the same court. The filing takes on companies with vested interest in opposing the settlement: “Competitors such as Amazon raise anxieties about Google’s potential market position, but ignore their own entrenched market dominance. Anxieties about what might be best for a particular objector should not become fatal to what is undoubtedly extraordinarily good for all class members and for the general public.”

Whether or not the U.S. Government’s objections carry more weight than those of businesses and other financially motivated organizations remains to be seen. The next hearing on the proposed amended settlement is scheduled for Feb. 18.

Copyright © 2010 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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