The Justice Department effectively sided with those arguments, saying the settlement could lessen competition among U.S. publishers. The agency also expressed concern that Google would gain a monopoly on so-called “orphan works”–out-of-print books that are still protected by copyright but whose writers’ whereabouts are unknown.
The arrangement “appears to create a dangerous probability that only Google would have the ability to market to libraries and other institutions a comprehensive digital-book subscription,” the department said in its brief.
Hoping to ease those concerns, Google has promised to share its electronic index with its rivals–an idea that has drawn an icy response from Amazon.com, one of the world’s biggest book merchants and the maker of the Kindle, an electronic reader.
Google already has gone into some of the nation’s largest libraries to scan about 6 million out-of-print books into its electronic index. So far, though, it has only been able to show snippets of those digital copies. The settlement would clear the way for Google to sell all those out-of-print books and scan even more into its index.
The project has turned into a crusade for Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who have for years dreamt of making books collecting dust on library book shelves accessible around the clock to anyone with an internet connection.
That ambition has won Google broad support from librarians, disabled rights activists, and big companies like Sony Corp., which wants to tap into the digital book index to feed its own electronic reading device.
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