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Google books deal 'bad for biz', thunders Microsoft

Frenchies not kissing up to web giant either

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Opposition to Google’s plans to scan and punt millions of books on the interwebs has swelled in the past 24 hours, with the French government, Microsoft and privacy groups all voicing their concerns about the deal.

France was the latest government to chide Google’s ambitious Book Registry proposal by saying it failed to recognise intellectual property law or competition law and claimed it represented “a threat to cultural diversity.”

Meanwhile, rival tech multinational Microsoft was quick to bemoan Mountain View by claiming it would have a stranglehold on copyrighted books that are available digitally online.

“The proposed settlement... confers on Google a new monopoly by authorising Google (and Google alone) to engage in the wholesale commercial [Microsoft’s italics] exploitation of entire copyrighted books,” opined the firm in a brief filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York yesterday.

The software maker also claimed that the proposed settlement agreement between US publishers and authors and Google could be harmful to its revamped search engine, Bing, and said the scheme was "an unprecedented misuse of the judicial system".

MS operated its own book digitisation project until it was canned in May 2008.

It complained in the brief that the Google Books deal is different to its own aborted effort because “Microsoft did not scan and display any copyrighted books without permission of the copyright owner.”

In August Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo! huddled together by forming an Open Book Alliance that opposed the Google project.

Last week Google wrote a letter to 16 European Union publishers in an effort to allay fears about the web kingpin’s digital books settlement with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers that was agreed in October 2008.

It followed a class action copyright infringement lawsuit filed by the two groups - on behalf of all US right holders - in 2005.

Google agreed to pony up $125m to resolve outstanding claims and establish an independent “Books Rights Registry” that would generate revenue for sales and ads to authors and publishers who consent to having their books digitised online.

Not everyone is opposing the proposed settlement, however. Sony Electronics, which recently inked an agreement with Google to make Chrome the default browser in its PCs, defended the deal. The Japanese tech giant claimed it would open the accessibility of out-of-print books by making them easily available online.

Yesterday was the deadline for the filing of briefs for or against Google’s deal in the case. A US District Court in New York will hold a fairness hearing on 7 October.

The bookcase continues. ®

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