Is the Justice Department actually investigating the Google Books deal?
Yes, the department confirmed to the federal judge reviewing the class action settlement. It is looking into whether the deal violate the Sherman Antitrust Act, The New York Times reports. In a letter to the judge, William Cavanaugh, a deputy assistant attorney general, said:
At this preliminary stage, the United States has reached no conclusions as to the merit of those concerns or more broadly what impact this settlement may have on competition. However, we have determined that the issues raised by the proposed settlement warrant further inquiry.
Is this a serious development? Oh, yeah. Antitrust lawyer Gary Reback told the Times:
This is the next step in the notion that this is a serious issue, so serious that the Justice Department needs to notify the court. It sets the stage for the department to come into the court to present a problem.
The Internet Archive, which has been leading the charge against the settlement, chiefly on the grounds that it gives Google an exclusive right to publish so-called orphan works, without fear of litigation, is "heartened" by the news, Peter Brantley, the director of access for the Internet Archive, said.