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Google rejects antitrust claims

Rachael Bolton (MIS Australia) | Sept. 4, 2009
Google has rejected claims that its proposed $US 125 million settlement with the Association of American Publishers and the Author's Guild will result in industry price fixing or a contravention of competition laws.

SYDNEY, 3 SEPTEMBER 2009 - Google has rejected claims that its proposed $US 125 million settlement with the Association of American Publishers and the Author's Guild will result in industry price fixing or a contravention of competition laws.

The agreement, which would see the creation of a new organisation called the Book Rights Registry to negotiate digital publishing rights with individual authors. The proposed Registry would have some control over pricing.

The Open Book Alliance is a group of companies that have banded together to oppose the deal.

A member of this Alliance, Amazon.com say that the agreement is tantamount to the creation of a digital publishing cartel and may result in a loss of rights by authors not represented by the specific groups involved in the settlement.

Amazon, which is also in the process of creating its own digital book collection, submitted a court filing to the US Federal Court that described the deal as "dangerous", saying the "cartel structure" of the organisation would leave the public "susceptible to abuses".

The 41-page document states that Amazon believes the Book Rights Registry would set a dangerous precedent and could damage innovation and hinder copyright law, "[usurping] the role of Congress in legislating solutions to the complex issues raised by the interplay between new technologies and the nation's copyright laws."

The Open Book Alliance acknowledges the importance of digitising analogue material for greater access and ease of distribution, but head of the Alliance, Peter Brantley, last week told The Guardian he believed the proposed settlement to be a "very different creature from the application Google had originally created".

Families of deceased authors are also concerned about the arrangement.

Google spokesman, Gabriel Stricker, said that the settlement would inject more competition into the digital book space, not less. "It's understandable why our competitors might fight hard to prevent more competition," he said.

The German Government has also objected and both Microsoft and Yahoo! are expected to file their own protests before the end of the week.

 

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