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DOJ Turns Up the Heat On Google's Book Deal 64

Posted by samzenpus
from the let's-take-a-good-look dept.
narramissic writes "It appears that after its initial review of a deal that would settle a lawsuit publishers and authors filed against Google over the latter's book search engine, the DOJ is leaning toward challenging the proposed settlement. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported late Tuesday that the DOJ is now sending civil investigative demands (CIDs) to organizations involved in the deals, a more formal approach than its initial information-gathering efforts. But Authors Guild Executive Director Paul Aiken said the fact that the DOJ is reviewing the proposed settlement isn't surprising, considering Google is involved: 'Any big deal that involves Google is going to get a look from the Justice Department.'"
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DOJ Turns Up the Heat On Google's Book Deal

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  • Look (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Idiot with a gun (1081749) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @02:44AM (#28290113)
    I can understand why they're looking into Google. They're a monopoly, which isn't illegal, but it does draw attention. But the reason they're a monopoly is because they're very, very good. They really have been churning out wonderful products at a continuous rate, that's why everyone works with google. What is annoying when the DOJ turns a blind eye as other monopolies, at least from my perspective, abuse their power to maintain their position as monopolies.
    • Re:Look (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @03:05AM (#28290201)

      Regardless of Google's supposed faults/shortcomings/evilness, the real problem lies with the book industry as a whole. They have witnessed what has happened to the media industries and they're trying their hardest to hold off progress and not get into the same mess. We should have had great ebook readers for a long long time now, as well as all manners of easing ways to read, the technology is there, but the book industry is clutching to their old dead tree business model like a rabid dog on a child's arm. They're way worse than the **AAs, and the more technology encroaches on their monopoly, the nastier they'll turn.

      What this is is a virtual monopoly (Google) trying to phagocyte another (publishers), and I suspect the real losers in the end, just like movies and music, will be the consumers.

      • by zymano (581466)

        Google books is great. They don't even give you all the pages. So whats the problem? I think i know. Once someone reads enough pages they find out the information is superfluous - it's overrated.

        They don't want people to just scan the books because they lose out on those sales by people who make the quick sale or the sale over amazon where they don't let you read some pages. Yeah Amazon used to allow you to look at a few pages but the idiot book companies threatened them too.

    • Re:Look (Score:5, Informative)

      by sy5t3m (1349857) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @03:10AM (#28290231)
      Wrong. This is not being looked at because google are a brilliant company who love everybody, this is being looked at because the deal is f'king shady.

      The authors guild wants to sell monopoly rights to google. Rights which are not theirs to sell, if they even exist at all.
      The exclusive right to scan and sell any orphaned book, which might very well contradict copyright laws.
      The exclusive right to decide what constitutes an "out of print" work, and republish it.
      There are others, those are just the two I can recall off the top of my head.

      Google would be released from the legal obligation to seek permission of copyright holders first, whether the holders are members of the authors guild or not. As you can probably imagine, there's no way in hell the authors guild has the legal capacity to grant that permission for all authors (including foreign authors).

      So google and the authors guild are trying to create an illegal monopoly.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        > Google would be released from the legal obligation to seek permission of copyright holders first, whether the holders are members of the authors guild or not. As you can probably imagine, there's no way in hell the authors guild has the legal capacity to grant that permission for all authors (including foreign authors).

        Well, the way these settlements work, you can either opt yourself out of it (and forbid Google to do this, or come to your own arrangement with them) or sit back and let it happen.

        If you

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        Or in other words, the authors guild is doing what they prosecute others for: Infringing the copyright of others. By acting as if they could make contracts in my place, for my books, without even asking me, and without having any rights from or relations to me.*

        One should hang them with their own weapons. ^^

        ___
        * I am not a book author (yet?). This is an example.

      • by PMuse (320639)

        Shady or not, this settlement is not an exclusive license or a monopoly because it doesn't give Google any right to prevent you from scanning the orphan books yourself. If you want to scan those books, Google can't stop you. (Though you may find yourself sued by the copyright holders/authors/publishers, just like Google did.)

    • And by unapproved, I mean deals not approved by Hollywood and Redmond.

      Seriously, are we looking for justice from the RIAADOJ [cnet.com]? We may as well look for truth from Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf [welovethei...nister.com].

    • I can understand why they're looking into Google. They're a monopoly

      Monopoly? What the hell are you talking about?

      Google is an advertiser.. Just like thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of other companies on the Interweb and in real life. Google surely has a tremendous market share, but they don't prevent anyone from advertising with other companies... And these other companies get a LOT of advertising despite Google's presence. Hell, Yahoo! is still worth billions of dollars, and their products don't have nearly the crazy media glitz that Google seems to g

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I can understand why they're looking into Google. They're a monopoly

        Monopoly? What the hell are you talking about? Google is an advertiser.. Just like thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of other companies on the Interweb and in real life. Google surely has a tremendous market share, but they don't prevent anyone from advertising with other companies...

        Having tremendous market share is being a monopoly, in terms of the law. Not leveraging that monopoly to harm competition means Google is obeying the law, not that they aren't a monopoly. A monopoly is just having the power to abuse a position, which is legal. Abuse of a monopoly is illegal.

        Being #1 doesn't make your[sic] a monopoly.

        No but having 70%+ of a market does give you a lot of power over your customers. Refusing to do business with them unless they accede to your demands allows you to undermine free trade and because you have so much power

      • You must work in tech support - because your answer, while completely correct, has absolutely nothing to do with the situation at hand.

        The issue isn't search, or advertising, but a dodgy attempt by Google to purchase rights from an entity whose right to sell those rights is (at best) questionable if not nonexistent. Google is trying to gain the right to scan and publish, at their choice, all books for all time - published and not yet published without being required to negotiate for those rights an

    • I can understand why they're looking into Google.

      Actually, the trust in this instance is the combination of the Author's Guild and the AAP trying to make a collective deal with Google that would grant Google exclusive privileges over use of printed works in exchange for using that power to gather money for the trust. It isn't Google's market share in internet search or online advertising that is the issue here.

      What is annoying when the DOJ turns a blind eye as other monopolies, at least from my perspective, abuse their power to maintain their position as monopolies.

      The DoJ has done a terrible job of regulating monopolies over te last decade and have pretty much been in the pocket of big business. This new acti

    • Seriously, I don't understand that.

  • At some point this will be on the same road of mp3... authors and publishers will finally see the benefits of a book search engine. I think this will not stop people to buy paper or electronic books.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Book search engines aren't the problem. The problem is, book search engines require books to be digitized, and from there it's only a short hop to selling digital books, something publishers really REALLY don't want. They definitely don't want books to be on the same road as MP3s, because the digitized music cat has slipped out of the record companies' bag and it hasn't been a good thing for them.

      And no, I think you're wrong, a great many people would stop buying real books (or newspapers or magazines) in f

      • by Starlon (1492461)
        Or you could simply grab the torrent and have the leaked copy weeks before release.
        • Re:Old dilema (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @03:50AM (#28290405)

          Yes, trouble is:

          1 - I don't want to spend ages rooting out an ebook torrent from shady sites. I want a well-stocked digital library that I can browse and download books from easily.

          2 - I want to pay for books from living authors. I want the authors I like to profit from their work, so they keeps on writing for me. What a concept eh?

          • but virtually no new books are release in digital format. I for one read a lot of SF, and if I could get, say, the latest Iain M. Banks on file, I would buy it in an instant. However, I can't, so I have to order the damn hardcover from the UK, wait a million years for it to be delivered, instead of getting my fix in 2 minutes, for a premium that I'd be willing to pay, to read on an ebook reader that I'd be willing to pay dearly too - if I had a great choice of books to read on it.

            Try Fictionwise (Matter is the book you're looking for, I take it?) [fictionwise.com], or BooksOnBoard [booksonboard.com]. Admittedly the amount of books offered isn't very large yet, but there are some efforts being made, and esp. scifi/fant is already fairly well available.

          • Not to mention you want a PDF of a book that doesn't look like someone merely printed a text file to the PDF file. Most books that are available to download infringingly have a shitty font, no chapter markers, misspellings, and other godawful things.

  • Google is doing something useful.

    Where were these clowns when MS was taking a dump all over personal computing for their own gain?
    • Well, we will have to go the road that the music industry goes. Because when printing and distributing books becomes free, writing books becomes a service only.

      But this is not the point here. The point is the authors guild acting as if they were the authors. Even for authors that they do not represent. And then making deals. With money. For those authors. Which is pretty much the same as printing CDs and *selling* them. En masse. For every musician out there.

      The selling point and the representing point, are

      • The point is the authors guild acting as if they were the authors. Even for authors that they do not represent. And then making deals. With money.

        There are lots of legal precedents for this; to list a few:

        • RIAA getting paid a tax on audio cassettes and "audio" CD-R disks.
        • ASCAP/BMI collecting licensing fees from businesses which play music and distributing the fees based on what they believe was played.
        • The collection of fees from Internet radio by SoundExchange.

        In all of those cases, licensing fees for (or compensation for copying of) music of independent artists (or even associated artists!) gets paid to someone else.

        Personally, I think they all shou

    • Spending a decade or more investigating and suing MS in court and finally winning. If you don't like the result, blame the instigators of the investigation (Sun, AOL, etc). They got big bucks from MS so the government efforts succeeded as planned.

      • How did the government's efforts succeed? Seems to me the DOJ rulings against msft were nothing but a joke. Msft certainly has not curtailed their abusive business practices.

        • As I said, it succeeded to benefit MS's competitors such as Sun and AOL, who spearheaded the investigation. After MS was found to be an abusive monopoly, those companies sued MS using the court verdict as evidence. Eventually MS paid them off.

          How would it have helped the consumer if MS had been ordered to use Netscape's old browser (which isn't Firefox) or bundle Sun's JVM with Windows? The remedies that MS didn't end up having to agree to were also transparently designed to benefit other companies and not

  • by Disstress (928999) on Thursday June 11, 2009 @03:13AM (#28290245) Homepage
    The idea of google as a monopoly is silly. You still have ask, bing, yahoo, and even altavista is still around. There is not one product that google provides that is monopolistic in nature. Being a leader in your field does not mean that you are a monopoly. Look back at Ma Bell's past, that was a monopoly, people had no choice. People have a choice not to use google and are by no means forced to do so out of lack of options or availability.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      it's only a monopoly if google somehow prevented you searching else where, or stopped anyone else starting a search engine business.

      as you said, yahoo and MS have significant slices of the search pie. google is just better at it, and it sickens me that a company which is actually good at it's business is being targeted by the government purely for being.. the best.

      • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@s l a s h dot.org> on Thursday June 11, 2009 @04:08AM (#28290505)

        Again. You are completely off the point.

        Think of it like this: You wrote a book. And Google scanned it. Now you could sue them, but you think, well, it might be something good. So you try to call up Google, and tell them, that although they should have asked you first, you can make a deal of which both of you profit.
        But Google ignores you, and tells you that the Authors Guild already handles it all.
        Now you are stumped, because you never made any deal with that guild, to represent you. So how can they make a contract in your name. Deciding the price and terms for you?
        Well, if you ask them, they will tell you some bullshit about them OWNING IT AAAALLLL MUHAHAHA!!!1!1one
        And you're out of the game.

        I don't think you think that this behavior is cool. ^^
        Of both of them. Google and even more the Authors Guild.

        So please inform yourself a bit, before taking sides.

        • by timmarhy (659436)
          so google made a deal with the authors guild, how is it google that needs investigating if the authors guild is misrepresenting itself as the owner of copyrighted material?

          nothing in your post indicates google is at fault.

          oh and my whole point was about the misconception of google being a monopoly so double fail to you.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Late Adopter (1492849)
            It's a little more complicated than either you or GP make it out to be.

            Google decided to go ahead and copy all these books digitally into their archive, and the Author's Guild sued on behalf of the works to which they *do* control the copyright (or at least the right to represent the authors in legal matters). Somewhere along the line the Author's Guild asked for the lawsuit to be promoted to a class-action, which means that the outcome of the suit is binding for all possible plaintiffs (in this case, a
      • by Kopiok (898028)
        That would be an abuse of monopoly. A company can have a monopoly on a market by having the vast majority of business. A monopoly isn't inherently bad. If a company is simply the best in the market and everybody decides to use their product, then good for them! It's still a monopoly. When that same company starts using their monopoly to force competitors out of the market, or keep people from switching, then they are leveraging their monopoly to corner the market, which is the illegal part.
    • by MobyDisk (75490)
      If Google gets an exclusive right to digitize books from the Author's Guild, then they effectively become a monopoly.
    • by jvkjvk (102057)

      So, who else has a blanket license to all out of print books (unless you specifically opt out)?

      It appears that they may hava a monopoly on this.

      So, yes, as of now google is a monopoly. It's not silly, it's a fact.

      Regards.

    • by hkmwbz (531650)
      Actually, Google is a monopoly according to the law. By law, you only need a market share of 60-70% or so. Which Google has.

      However, being a monopoly is not illegal in itself.

  • The government is double checking court decisions to make sure they're fair and right?

    Sweet Torvalds GNU/Jesus! What if the government behaved as a regulatory and fair entity that gets all the facts while laying down the law!?!? Heaven help us!

  • Google seems to be doing EXACTLY what Amazon is doing with their Kindle book service, they're just going all in wholesale. Whereas Amazon waits for the book publishers and authors to explicitly authorize their content to be sold on the Kindle, Google is taking more of a "shoot first and ask questions later" approach. Since a presumably large number of these scanned works will be from Author's Guild writers, I don't see why the Author's Guild can't say "Sure, you can scan the books of our patrons!". But i
  • Everyone - both authors and readers - would be better off if there was an easy way to search through all books online, and to read or download books which are abandoned or out of print. Unfortunately, the law is focused on how to restrict people, rather than being focused on how to make written works as accessible as possible.

    It just makes me sad to think that we have the technical capacity to create something amazing like a public, global book search, but we can't make it happen due to legal and human fact

  • You can check here for a summar of the criticisms [bnet.com] of the deal. Notice that the critics include librarians, the EFF, the Internet Archive, some authors, and at least one major copyright expert that you woudln't normally expect to be on the same side of a copyright issue.
  • if the DoJ doesn't shit-can this whole deal.

    The Author's Guild seems to have seen a way to turn a class action lawsuit into a gold mine, and Google saw it as a way to trump copyright law for fractions of a penny on the dollar.

    It's truly disturbing that the judge involved in approving this foul marriage is actually allowed to practice law....

    Ok... Now, and forever more Author's Guild and Google get to A$$Rape the down trodden, lost, and dead authors of the world, AND their heirs.

    If I were an author working o

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