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US states mulling Google book-scan pact

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A group of US state attorneys general recently held a conference call to discuss Google's $125m digital book settlement with the US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers.

The settlement - made after authors and publishers sued over Google's library-scanning Book Search project - is already facing an investigation by the US Department of Justice.

News of the state AG conference call first arrived to from Reuters, and it was confirmed to The Reg by the Internet Archive's Peter Brantley, who was on the conference call. The Internet Archive has its own book-scanning operation, and it's among those who have raised objections to the Google settlement.

Brantley was clear that he has no knowledge of whether the AGs plan to take any official action over the pact. "My impressions of the call are that it was a conversation seeking to obtain general background information about the settlement, and I provided a background on Google's scanning activities and the Internet Archive scanning activities and then articulated what the settlement means for these two parties and what our concerns were."

Brantley also took questions from the AGs. The call lasted about an hour.

Reuters quoted Brantley in its story, but he says the news service was clearly aware of the conference call before it phoned him.

In a now famous piece in The New York Review of Books, Harvard University libraries boss Robert Darnton warned that the settlement would grant Google "a monopoly - a monopoly of a new kind, not of railroads or steel but of access to information."

The settlement creates a "Book Rights Registry" where authors and publishers can resolve copyright claims in exchange for a pre-defined cut of Google's revenues and it gives Google rights to so-called "orphan works," books whose rights are controlled by authors and publishers who haven't stepped forward. The concern is that once Google settles all copyright claims in one fell swoop, it would be ridiculously difficult - read: costly - for a competitor to catch up. ®

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