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Google to subpoena Yahoo! and Microsoft in library battle

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New developments in online selling and the lawPublishers and authors are taking Google to court over its programme to digitise the libraries of four US universities, Oxford university library and the New York Public Library.

Google has said that it will subpoena two of its fiercest competitors, Yahoo! and Microsoft, for information relating to their own book scanning operations as part of the case. The information being sought by Google includes project costs, lists of books, estimates of sales and details of discussions with publishers.

The competitors may be reluctant to hand over sensitive commercial information to Google, but the court has ordered restrictions on who can see the data. "We have also made clear to these organizations that we will work with them to address any concerns about their confidential information," Google spokeswoman Megan Lamb told newswire Bloomberg.

Google said that it would also issue similar subpoenas for documents from Amazon.com and publisher Random House.

Google's project involves the digitising of books at the libraries so that they can be searchable in a project called Google Book Search. The publishing industry is instead backing a separate project called the Open Content Alliance (OCA).

The OCA's specific aims are to make sure that content is freely available and that works in the public domain remain in the public domain after digitisation. That programme is backed by a mixture of companies and non-profit organisations.

The OCA is backed by Adobe, Hewlett-Packard, the Smithsonian Institute Libraries and the UK's National Archives. Yahoo! and Microsoft are also part of the OCA, and it is documents in relation to this which Google is asking to see.

The OCA seeks specific copyright permission before copying any work. Google's project allows a rights owner to stop a work being copied but automatically copies works unless it has been instructed not to.

The Association of American Publishers is co-ordinating the legal action and says that copyright law mandates that someone ask before copying any work, rather than operate on an opt-out basis.

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