Saturday, May 2, 2009

Google's "iTunes for Books"

In an article in the Guardian it has been announced that Google is facing accusations of anti-competitive behaviour. The US Justice Department is reported to be currently investigating Google's dealings with the book industry. The investigation surrounds a $125m settlement that Google made with authors. Google have been trying for some time to create an "iTunes for books". Last September Google made significant progress with a deal that would allow the company to digitise millions of books in the US.

The deal followed two years of negotiations and was called a "great leap" by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. However the deal caused a lot of concern in a number of camps due to the exclusive rights that Google would gain to digitise "orphan works" (books that are still under copyright, but without any clear owner).

"There are legitimate antitrust issues related to Google's ability to solely commercialise this content," said Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based organisation that documents millions of web pages and digitises out-of-copyright books.

In a move that pleased campaigners, a New York judge granted a four-month extension allowing those affected by the deal to examine the details and decide whether to opt out of it or not.

"We now have time to really sink our teeth into what this agreement will mean," said Gail Knight Steinbeck, chair of the Creative Property Rights Alliance and daughter-in-law of late author John Steinbeck.

The outcome remains to be seen, but I for one think that this is a pivitol case, and the result will have serious implications for all online and offline publications going forward.

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