Justice Department objects to Google book deal

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The US Justice Department has criticised the deal struck between Google and copyright owners, and has called for changes.

The department says that while the deal marks an improvement, it still leaves Google holding all the cards.

In a statement, it said: "The amended settlement agreement suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation."

The Department had asked for sweeping changes to the agreement, and many of these have been implemented.

For example, certain open-ended provisions that would have allowed Google to engage in certain unspecified future uses have been removed, and a fiduciary to protect rightsholders of unclaimed works has been appointed.

The deal also reduces the number of foreign works in the settlement class, and eliminates the most-favored nation provision that would have guaranteed Google optimal license terms into the future.

But the Department still wants some sort of mechanism to allow Google's competitors comparable access.

It says the present deal "still confers significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages on Google as a single entity, thereby enabling the company to be the only competitor in the digital marketplace with the rights to distribute and otherwise exploit a vast array of works in multiple formats."