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Amazon files Googlebooks pact with the monopolies

'Cartel' cross-reference

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Amazon has filed an official objection to Google's $125m book scanning settlement with US authors and publishers, saying the deal is anti-competitive and in violation of anti-trust laws.

In October, Google settled a longstanding lawsuit from the US Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over its Google Book Search project, which seeks to digitize works inside many of the world's leading research libraries. The pact - which still requires court approval - creates a "Books Rights Registry" of copyright holders that would oversee the reuse of works scanned by Google, and it gives Mountain View a unique license to publish and sell and post ads against the works of rights holders who can't be located.

"[The settlement] provides Google an effective monopoly in the scanning and exploitation of millions of works whose copyright holders cannot be located or choose not to involve themselves in this class action," reads Amazon's court complaint.

"It also creates a cartel of authors and publishers - the Books Rights Registry - operating with virtually no restrictions on its actions, with the potential to raise book prices and reduce output to the detriment of consumers and new authors or publishers who would compete with the cartel members."

Amazon's filing comes just days before the deadline for briefs in opposition to (or support of) the settlement, which is under investigation by the Department of Justice. Today, Judge Denny Chin of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York extend the deadline from this coming Friday to Tuesday.

Last week, Amazon joined the Open Book Alliance, a consortium pulled together by the Internet Archive to oppose the Googlebooks deal, and in its court filing, the company said it plans to attend the October 7 hearing that will decide the settlement's fate.

Like the Internet Archive, Amazon is calling for Congressional legislation that will decide the ebook copyright issues for everyone - as opposed to a civil lawsuit that grants legal protection to a single company that already controls a vast swath of the world's information.

"Amazon recognizes the surface appeal of the proposed settlement: digitization of books creates tremendous opportunities for public benefit, and the digitization of so-called 'orphan works' that this settlement allows would enhance those benefits," the filing says. "Indeed, Amazon has long supported efforts to pass copyright reform legislation that would make it easier for booksellers and the public to gain access to these books."

Amazon - maker of the Kindle ebook reader - points out that like Google, it's scanning books for the online world. But unlike Google, it hasn't inked with libraries to scan to millions of books without the approval from copyright holders. To date, it has one million English-language books and three million works total - all with permission from rights holders.

Google has scanned more than 10 million. And considering that no one else likely has the money or the chutzpah to scan all those copyright works and get themselves sued for multi-millions, some have asking whether Google Book Search is The Last Library. It may be - unless that legislation arrives. ®

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