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Amazon is fighting in federal court to overturn Google's settlement with book publishers that allowed Google Books to survive. If it can kill Google Books it will gain ground in the digital book sales market. However, if this happens many orphan works will no longer be available, and people with disabilities won't have as easy access to many works.  (Source: Faulkner University)
One of the largest internet retailers is coming out swinging against Google's book archiving

Google's ambition was simple -- offer a first-of-its-kind internet library, where people could travel online to view everything from textbooks to great works of fiction.  It began scanning books and quickly met with the ire of the publishing industry.  However, it brokered a multi-million dollar settlement with publishers that would include compensation for rights holders and means for visitors to buy the books they were viewing, with Google retaining a cut.

The deal wasn't popular with Google's competitors -- Amazon, Microsoft, and Yahoo.  These competitors recently shacked up with the Open Books Alliance, a group that was opposed to basically all things Google Books related.  The group is taking its complaints to federal court, challenging the legality of the settlement.

Yesterday, Amazon filed a particularly stinging criticism at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Writes Amazon, "Amazon also brings a unique perspective to this court because it has engaged in a book scanning project very similar to Google's, with one major distinction: As to books still subject to copyright protection, Amazon has only scanned those for which it could obtain permission to do so from the copyright holder."

"[The Google Books deal] is unfair to authors, publishers, and others whose works would be the subject of a compulsory license for the life of the copyright in favor of Google and the newly created Book Rights Registry.  [It] represents an unprecedented rewriting of copyright law through judicial action."

Google does have some powerful supporters as well.  Sony, the American Association for People with Disabilities, and the European Commission have all filed legal briefs in support of the settlement. 

These groups support the site for a variety of reasons.  First, it provides orphan works, which are currently unpublished and otherwise would be made unavailable.  It is estimated that over half the books published in the last century have become orphaned.  The site also provides easier access for people with disabilities such as impaired vision or impaired movement, which otherwise would have trouble getting access to these books or getting them in a form they could use.

Paul Aiken, executive director of The Authors Guild, one of the groups that settled with Google says that Amazon's criticism is self-centered.  He says they want to make Kindle the primary source of digital books.  He states, "Amazon apparently fears Google could upend its plans."

Google is essentially fighting for the service's life.  If federal courts overturn the settlement, Google's online library would likely become prohibitively expensive, and it would likely be forced to abandon the project for the time being.  Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo wouldn't be terribly sad to see this happen.

Google and its supporters from civil rights groups and advocates for people with disabilities will be holding a press conference later this afternoon in defense of the settlement.  We'll post an update then.





"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay






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