The amended Google Books settlement agreement (ASA) has not impressed the U.S. Department of Justice. A statement the organization issued late yesterday praised the idea of making rare books widely available, but also maintained that there are a number of problems with the proposed deal.
The DOJ said, "Under the ASA as proposed, Google would remain the only competitor in the digital marketplace with the rights to distribute and otherwise exploit a vast array of works in multiple formats. Google also would have the exclusive ability to exploit unclaimed works (including so-called ‘orphan works’) without risk of liability. The ASA’s pricing mechanisms, though in some respects much improved, also continue to raise antitrust concerns."
As a result, the DOJ doesn’t want the current deal to go forward. The organization concluded, "At this time, in the view of the United States, the public interest would best be served by direction from the Court encouraging the continuation of settlement discussions between the parties and, if the Court so chooses, guidance as to those aspects of the ASA that need to be addressed."
So it looks like Google will have to go back to the figurative drawing board again. Enough groups have objected to the amended settlement agreement to make the situation almost comical, and with the DOJ on their side, it’s hard to imagine Judge Denny Chin won’t acknowledge their concerns.
Judge Chin, representing the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, should get the chance to voice his opinion at a hearing on February 18th.