Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon are reportedly joining the Internet Archive and other non-profit groups to dismantle Google's book settlement with publishers and authors.
According to the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and others, the group of tech giants and library groups will be co-led by Gary Reback, a central lawyer in the Department of Justice's antitrust investigation against Microsoft.
What's unclear is whether the collective weight of Google's rivals is enough to scuttle the $125 million deal. Google argues that it is merely making out of print books available to the masses. Those against the deal say Google is getting too much power over copyrighted works. The Department of Justice also has an inquiry into the settlement, which still needs court approval.
In October 2008, Google and The Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers settled a book scanning lawsuit for $125 million. Under the settlement, Google gets to scan books as long as it offers the ability to purchase them, provide institutional subscriptions and give authors and publishers control over access to their works.
The bigger question here boils down to one question: Does Google have too much power? Clearly, Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon are downright squeamish about allowing Google to become a book gatekeeper. Wouldn't a non-profit entity funded by the industry be a better choice?
There is no definitive answer, but rivals will increasingly serve to be a counterweight against the search giant. Think Microsoft in the 1990s. Anyone not named Microsoft joined forces to keep the software giant in check.
That's why this book settlement handwringing may just be the first volley in a long string of skirmishes for Google. You'll be hearing a lot more about the power of Google. Microsoft and Yahoo has made Google's clout the centerpiece of their search deal.