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Coalition to challenge Google Books settlement

The Internet Archive is reportedly forming a coalition of tech giants to be led by veteran Silicon Valley attorney Gary Reback.

The Internet Archive is enlisting some heavy hitters in its challenge of Google's proposed settlement with book publishers and authors.

Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo are joining with a few library associations to oppose the settlement, Peter Brantley, the Internet Archive's director, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview. The coalition, which is expected to be announced in a couple of weeks, will be co-led by antitrust lawyer Gary Reback, Brantley said.

It's an unusual reunion for Reback, who marshaled industry opposition to Microsoft's efforts to squeeze Netscape from the browser business. Reback, who until 2000 was a partner at the storied firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, was responsible for compiling evidence to aid the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust case against Microsoft on behalf of Microsoft's Silicon Valley adversaries. In 2003, PeopleSoft hired Reback in its failed effort to fend off Oracle's hostile $6.3 billion takeover bid.

Reback is the second prominent attorney to be linked this week with the growing opposition to the settlement. On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Scott Gant, a lawyer with Boies Schiller & Flexner, would act on his own as an author concerned about the use of class action status to lump all authors into the same pool.

Google is digitizing the works from many major libraries, including the New York Public Library and the libraries at Stanford and Harvard universities, and is making those texts searchable on pages with advertisements. The Authors Guild, which represents more than 8,000 authors, sued Google in September 2005, alleging that the company's digitizing initiative amounted to "massive" copyright infringement. The suit was subsequently granted class action status.

Under the proposed $125 million settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, announced in October 2008, Google would have the right to show content from books online that are still in copyright but that are no longer in print. In addition, those copyright holders could be paid for online sales of their books.

Authors and publishers may opt out of the proposed settlement, but if they do nothing, they're considered part of it. That includes authors who can't be located.

Google has book-search agreements in place with numerous publishers, but the company hopes that the settlement will permit it to bring many more books into its service. In a victory for settlement opponents, a judge gave authors four more months to decide whether to participate.

Currently, users of Google Book Search are able to view snippets of books online. The settlement agreement would allow Google to make whole pages of copyright works available to online searchers.