Google Books Deal Would Be Anti-competitive, Says FairSearch

Chris CrumSearchNews

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As previously reported, Judge Denny Chin rejected a Google Books settlement proposal, which would have enabled Google to scan, digitize, and distribute millions of in copyright, but out-of-print books. Chin concluded in a court document, "In the end, I conclude that the ASA is not fair, adequate, and reasonable."

Believe it or not, the FairSearch Coalition agrees. The organization sent us the following statement:

Today's rejection of the Google Books settlement by Federal appeals court Judge Denny Chin confirms that allowing Google to acquire exclusive access to content and withhold it from other search engines – as Google threatens to do with ITA Software in online flight search – raises serious antitrust concerns. Judge Chin recognized that the proposal he rejected "would further entrench Google's market power in the online search market."

Today's ruling reaffirms the Justice Department was right to take on Google on this issue and that enforcing antitrust laws is essential to ensuring that Google not be allowed to harm consumers or competition by illegally extending its dominance in online search.

If you're unfamiliar with the FairSearch Coalition, it's a group made up mainly of travel sites (including Microsoft, who has great interest in travel search with Bing, obviously) that was formed soley to push for the blocking of that ITA Software acquisition. Now, the group takes essentially any opportunity it can weigh in when there's any question around competition and Google.

Google's proposal, or Amended Settlement Agreement (ASA), would have involved those who did not wish to have their content included to opt out. "As the United States and other objectors have noted, many of the concerns raised in the objections would be ameliorated if the ASA were converted an 'opt-out' to an 'opt-in' settlement," Chin said in the court document.

That may be the only way this goes forward, which would likely please a lot of publishers and authors, not to mention other search engines.

Last month, Google announced that it had scanned, and converted from image to text, a million books from the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, an association whose members consist of the traditional Big Ten Conference schools and the University of Chicago.

"CIC libraries have agreed to provide as many as 10 million volumes to this ambitious project, out of total collections approaching 85 million volumes. — so this is just the beginning," said Kim Armstrong, Deputy Director, Center for Library Initiatives, Committee on Institutional Cooperation on the Google Books blog.

Last year, of course, Google went from Book Search and providing free works and previews to also selling digital books, when it opened the Google eBookstore. The store contains over 3 million books that can be read on a variety of electronic devices.

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.