Googles book settlement proposal raises anti trust concern

Customers Watchdog,  formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, calls on Justice department to look into the proposed settlement of Google with authors and publishers.

The settlement is based on a class action suit brought against Google by The Authors Guild and The Association of American Publishers.

Consumer Watchdog asked the department by a letter [www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrjusticegooglebook040109.pdf] to seek a delay of the settlement until a “most favored nation” clause favoring Google is removed and the deal’s “orphan works” provision is extended to cover all who might digitize books, not only Google.

Consum group feels that the ‘Orphan Works’ provision and the ‘Most Favored Nation’ clause raise antitrust concerns. As per consumer advocate John M. Simpson, This deal simply furthers the relatively narrow agenda of Google, The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers.

According to Consumer Watchdog, The most favored nation provision should be eliminated to remove barriers of entry and the orphan works provision should be extended to cover all who digitize books.

It is inappropriate for the resolution of a class action lawsuit to effectively create an “anti-compete” clause, which precludes smaller competitors from entering a market. Given the dominance of Google over the digital book market, it would no doubt take more advantageous terms to allow another smaller competitor to enter the market.

The proposed settlement will protects Google from  potentially damaging exposure, but provides no protection for others. This effectively is a barrier for competitors to enter the digital book business.

Members of the class have until May 5 to file objections. A federal judge will review the settlement in June.

For further details see Consumer Watchdog website at www.consumerwatchdog.org.

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