Amazon knocks Google Book Settlement; Opposition (and some support) lines up

Amazon knocks Google Book Settlement; Opposition (and some support) lines up

Summary: Amazon panned Google's book settlement with the Author's Guild saying that the deal "restrains competition" and "usurps the role of Congress in legislating solutions" as copyright and new technologies collide.

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Amazon panned Google's book settlement with the Author's Guild saying that the deal "restrains competition" and "usurps the role of Congress in legislating solutions" as copyright and new technologies collide.

Amazon's rebuttal, which can be downloaded here (PDF), is one of many arguments against the Google Book Settlement that have been filed over the last two days. Google was sued in 2005 by authors and publishers for infringing on copyrights as the search giant moved to digitize books. Google later settled with authors and publishers for $125 million and agreed to set up a registry to ensure copyright owners would be compensated.

Also see: A spirited defense of the Google Book Search settlement

Open Book Alliances opens up assault on Google’s book settlement

Meanwhile, the Open Book Alliance, which counts Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo as members, and other groups have rallied against it. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 7 to hear objections to the Google pact with authors and publishers.

In its filing, Amazon said it would show up to the Oct. 7 hearing to voice its objection. The e-tailer said:

Amazon also brings a unique perspective to this Court because it has engaged in a book scanning project very similar to Google’s, with one major distinction: As to books still subject to copyright protection, Amazon has only scanned those for which it could obtain permission to do so from the copyright holder. Amazon’s scanning project has to date resulted in the lawful scanning of over 1 million English-language works and 3 million books in total.

And then Amazon gets to the nut of its argument:

The settlement proposed by the parties to this case should not be approved. It is unfair to authors, publishers, and others whose works would be the subject of a compulsory license for the life of the copyright in favor of Google and the newly created Book Rights Registry. It is anticompetitive and violates antitrust laws because it provides Google an effective monopoly in the scanning and exploitation of millions of works whose copyright holders cannot be located or choose not to involve themselves in this class action. It also creates a cartel of authors and publishers—the Books Rights Registry—operating with virtually no restrictions on its actions, with the potential to raise book prices and reduce output to the detriment of consumers and new authors or publishers who would compete with the cartel members. Indeed, the agreement is even arguably unlawful on its face because it constitutes price fixing by horizontal competitors—namely, the Rightsholders, who are agreeing collectively on a mechanism for setting the highest possible prices to be charged for their works. Finally, the proposed settlement improperly seeks to stretch the boundary of this Court’s power beyond its lawful limits, using the class action mechanism embodied in Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to create a massive and complex business arrangement of perpetual duration among class members, Google and the Registry.

The rest of Amazon's argument goes on to note that Congress needs to sort out the intersection of new technologies---such as Google's digitization efforts---and copyright law. The argument is an interesting read---and it's not going to be the last.

Indeed, the scorecard of filings goes like this:

  • There were 18 declarations of support on Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and Sept. 2.
  • Six opposition or objection letters.
  • Seventeen letters chiming in on the settlement.
  • Musician Arlo Guthrie and author Catherine Ryan Hyde panned the deal noting that Google's Book Settlement would do a public good at an unfair cost to authors (PDF filing).
  • Sony argued for Google's Book Settlement.
  • The University of Wisconsin and American Association of People with Disabilities supported the Google pact.

More reading on the subject:

Topics: Amazon, Enterprise Software, Google, Legal

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5 comments
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  • All partisan and self-interested

    I've read several of the briefs as well as Google's proposal, and all of them are filled with self-serving doubletalk. The challenge for the courts will be to decide if one way or the other is less harmful than the other.

    The "Open Book Alliance" is truly an ironic play on words, because nothing could be further from the truth about their position and arguments.

    Sony sides with Google because the alternative is to continue getting their asses kicked by Amazon and the Kindle. No surprise there.

    Authors in general hate Google for several reasons, but mostly because Google has tried to bring fair use back into the forefront. Authors with older works figure somehow they are getting diddled on sales/royalties, and authors of new works don't want competition from older works that could distract readers from whatever is on B&N bookshelves for sale today.

    I do fear that Congress will eventually wade into this, with terrible results for the consumer. Since Congress represents everybody EXCEPT the citizens and taxpayers, we can rest assured that whatever law they come up with will enrich somebody and screw us over.
    terry flores
  • RE: Amazon knocks Google Book Settlement; Opposition (and some support) lin

    I am a big google-light and have been pleased with the
    way l have been treated but l do not believe that
    everyone should have all the cake. So it is not
    suprising that google are being challenged by another
    large provider of reading matter.

    I will take time to read your pdf and thanks and
    report more across the network. Have shared with
    twitter and keep up the good work. G

    " The Roving Giraffe News Report " provided through
    Ace News Service - 03/09/09 - 19.29pm
    aceone29
  • Big surprise: Amazon doesn't like Google book deal.

    Seriously? Who is surprised by that? Amazon will finally have a tiny bit of competition from a company as big as they are and they're scared. So, they whine and complain instead of trying to do something to compete.

    Regarding those poor authors: News Flash: The books weren't in print. They weren't making a dime on them and had no hope of making a dime on them. They don't make any money on USED book sales. It's not like any publisher was going to take their out-of-date, out-of-print book and publish it again. Putting it on Google just makes it available in the same way the Library of Congress or local library does. It's a search-able archive. They should view it as free advertising for whatever they've written LATELY and move on.
    BillDem
    • So Google is a special case?

      Copyright laws do exist. Google Violated them! So they are sued and in working out a settlement (with a minority of the copyright owners) they are trying to walk away with all the apples.

      Now Amazon played by the rules and are trying to work with public libraries to make these digital libraries available (see Kindle). So to say they aren't competing is incredibly unfair.

      The google deal leaves no room for competition and that is just plain wrong.

      And hey books come back in print all the time. Some of them are called classics.
      kyron.gustafson@...
  • RE: Amazon knocks Google Book Settlement; Opposition (and some support) lines up

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