DOJ officially opens investigation into Google Book Search

The agency will investigate the search giant's book search service for possible antitrust violations

The U.S. Department of Justice confirmed on Thursday that it is investigating a settlement involving Google Book Search for possible antitrust violations, following months of speculation that the agency had its eye on the service.

In a filing to the judge overseeing the settlement of a lawsuit filed by The Authors Guild against Google, the DOJ informed the court that it has opened an investigation into the proposed settlement after reviewing public comments of concern. Those comments suggest that the agreement might violate the Sherman Act, a U.S. antitrust law, the DOJ said.

"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," the letter reads.

It also says the DOJ has already demanded access to documents and other information from parties in the litigation and expects to have ongoing discussions with them as well.

The court has a hearing scheduled for Oct. 7, during which it will discuss the proposed settlement. Judge Denny Chin, who is overseeing the case, invited the DOJ to submit its opinions in writing in advance and also appear at the hearing.

Authors and publishers initially filed the suit against Google, charging the search giant with copyright infringement for scanning books without always getting the approval of authors and publishers. Google allowed authors to opt out of the program.

As part of the proposed settlement, Google would pay US$125 million toward funding a Book Rights Registry that would locate and register copyright owners. The money would also help settle existing claims by authors and publishers. In exchange, Google would be able to display larger chunks of in-copyright books, rather than just snippets.

Also, Google would let people buy online access to the books, and universities and other institutions would be able to buy subscriptions to the books.

The proposed settlement has had its critics. Pamela Samuelson, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, argues that the proposed settlement is in essence a way to monetize so-called orphan works, and that it is questionable whether the deal represents the best interests of the authors of such works. Orphan works are those for which no one claims ownership, because either the author is dead or the publishing house no longer exists.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit group, argues that the proposal gives Google special protections against lawsuits over the orphan works. Those special protections would discourage potential Google competitors from entering the digital book business unless they could negotiate a similar protection, the group argues. Consumer Watchdog has urged the DOJ to examine the settlement.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Google Book SearchGoogle

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?