Open Book Alliance to oppose Google Book deal

Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo have joined forces with library and author groups to oppose Google's settlement with publishing groups over digital book scanning.

With less than two weeks remaining until a key deadline in the Google Books settlement, Google's opposition is circling the wagons.

The Open Book Alliance, a consortium that includes nonprofit author groups, library institutions, and Google rivals Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo, launched Wednesday to "insist that any mass book digitization and distribution effort be open and competitive." As reported last week by the Wall Street Journal, the group will be led by Peter Brantley of Internet Archive and veteran antitrust lawyer Gary Reback of Carr & Ferrell.

Google's proposed settlement with book rights holders last October gave it the sole legal authority to scan and distribute digital books that are still in copyright but out of print, and library groups and privacy activists have been up in arms ever since.

Some object to the unchecked publishing power granted to a single corporation, some are concerned that rights holders are not getting a fair shake under the deal, and some just don't like Google. On the other hand, there are some rights holders who are excited by the idea of gaining recognition and perhaps revenue for books long out of print.

Book rights holders have until next Friday, September 4, to decide if they want to opt out of the proposed settlement and prevent their books from being displayed in Google Book Search. The U.S. Department of Justice is also looking into the Google Books settlement to determine if "anticompetitive practices" were used in the formulation of the settlement.

That's perhaps where Reback comes in. Reback was instrumental in the DOJ's prosecution of Microsoft in the 1990s, and also attempted to argue an antitrust case by representing Peoplesoft against an eventually successful takeover bid from Oracle. He did not immediately return a call seeking comment on the Open Book Alliance.

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