The Global Anti-Trust Battle Over Google's Library

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Who knew there was so much fight in those dusty books? When Google announced plans in 2004 to scan millions of tomes tucked into library stacks across the country, admirers embraced the ambitious project as a digital undertaking as visionary as Magellan setting sail around the world. The project would throw open musty archives everywhere, putting hidden works on the Internet for all to use.

How things change. The library project is now embroiled in a ferocious legal free-for-all spanning the globe. At the battle's heart is Google's year-old settlement with groups representing authors and publishers who sued the company over its plans to digitize and copy books. In response to complaints by settlement's many opponents, a federal judge in New York has asked Google to revise the settlement by Nov 9. After that, opponents and the Department of Justice will carefully scrutinize the new deal.

The case presents a tangle of issues: how to create new markets for old books without shortchanging authors; how to nurture new technology without stifling competition; and how to preserve all that when one company — in this case, Google — is pioneering the revolution and could profit handsomely. One commentator, who supports the original settlement, has called it "the World Series of antitrust."

Some of the protest centers on a new, non-profit Book Rights Registry that the settlement would create. The registry would find authors or their heirs, and pay them for the use of their newly digitized writing, whether a blockbuster novel, a poem included in an anthology or liner notes for a long-ago blues album...

... Authors are on both sides of the barricades. Opponents of the settlement include silver-maned folk singer Arlo Guthrie and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, author of the so-called "torture memos" for President Bush. The settlement counts The Joy Luck Club author Amy Tan and noir crime novelist Elmore Leonard among its supporters. The deal has many other supporters as well, from disability rights groups to Dr. Seuss Enterprises and the National Grange...

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