Consumer Watchdog Challenges Google Book Search Settlement

Consumer Watchdog has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that challenges the terms of the Google Book Search Copyright Class Action Settlement.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

The proposed settlement announced last year creates the nonprofit Book Rights Registry to manage book digital rights issues. Here are the deal’s two most troubling aspects, Consumer Watchdog said:

—A "most favored nation" clause guarantees Google the same terms that any future competitor might be offered. Under the most favored nation clause the registry would be prevented from offering more advantageous terms to, for example, Yahoo! or Microsoft, even if it thought better terms would be necessary to enable either to enter into the digital books business and provide competition to Google. It is inappropriate for the resolution of a class action lawsuit to effectively create an "anti-compete" clause, which precludes smaller competitors from entering a market. Given the dominance of Google over the digital book market, it would no doubt take more advantageous terms to allow another smaller competitor to enter the market.

—The settlement provides a mechanism for Google to deal with "orphan works." Orphan works are works under copyright, but with the rights holders unknown or not found. The danger of using such works is that a rights holder will emerge after the book has been exploited and demand substantial infringement penalties. The proposed settlement protects Google from such potentially damaging exposure, but provides no protection for others. This effectively is a barrier for competitors to enter the digital book business.

The most favored nation provision should be eliminated to remove barriers of entry and the orphan works provision should be extended to cover all who digitize books, Consumer Watchdog said.