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Is Google trying to create a digital monopoly on online books? Microsoft, Yahoo, and Amazon think so.  (Source: EL Civics)
Settlement monopolizes a market they say

Google often goes its own way first, subsequently finding a way to deal with the resulting legal issues.  An excellent example of this was its Google Books content database.  Google began scanning books and posting them online, only to meet with threats from publishers that they might sue.  Google tidied up these legal loose ends with a $125M USD settlement in 2008 and an agreement to create a Book Rights Registry so authors and publishers could register works and get compensation from sales.  Google would get a 30 percent cut of all the sales and get the right to publish "orphan works" -- books with unknown rights holders, estimated to encompass 50-70% of books published after 1923.

However, Google now faces a new challenge, not from the book industry, but from its online competitors, who claim the deal is illegal and will create a monopoly.  Newly partnered Microsoft and Yahoo joined with Amazon as new members of the Open Book Alliance, an Internet Archive initiative.

The group hopes to fight the legality of Google's settlement with the publishers.  States Internet Archive's founder Brewster Kahle, "Google is trying to monopolize the library system. If this deal goes ahead, they're making a real shot at being 'the' library and the only library."

The group looks to push the U.S. federal courts to approve a New York class action lawsuit against Google.  They also hope to drive ahead a US Department of Justice investigation into the impact of the deal.

Some authors don't think the relationship with Google is unhealthy.  Michelle Richmond, author of the New York Times best seller The Year of Fog, states, "The thing I keep hearing from authors is 'I don't know what this settlement really means'. But this is the brave new world and we don't really know where it is going.  Most authors work for so little and start from the point of we are doing this for the love it. But when there is this company that has nothing to do with the creation of the book or its publication, I think a lot of authors are concerned about this being a portal to greater access to their work without compensation for writers."

Even if Google can overcome antitrust scrutiny, numerous issues persist, such as privacy.  The ACLU of Northern California and Electronic Frontier Foundation recently urged Google to do a better job keeping users' reading history private.



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Losers
By Breathless on 8/24/2009 9:36:09 AM , Rating: 1
Their just pissed because google was smart enough to figure out this may be good business. Pathetic....




RE: Losers
By omnicronx on 8/24/2009 10:58:30 AM , Rating: 5
I think the problem here is, with the online world, nobody has really reached the position of being a monopoly, nor has anyone decided whether or not the online market is part of a broader market (i.e is online and offline in the same market). One day this decision will be made, and when it does deals like these will be a thing of the past.

If libraries online are considered a different entity than real libraries then what Google is doing could possibly be illegal. Who made it to the market first is irrelevant as that does not give you the right to control an entire market. I'm not exactly sure how this deal works if it is is exclusive or not, but if it is, Google could have some problems in the near future.

Google has argued this very point in the past, and I am sure it will come up this time. Someone really has to make the decision, or this is just going to happen over and over again as it is a gray area at best. I'm not saying Google is in the wrong here, I just think some rules need to be laid down.


RE: Losers
By bhieb on 8/24/2009 11:34:23 AM , Rating: 4
Being the only provider may constitute a monopoly, but that in and of itself is not illegal. Abusing that position is.

I don't see how this would qualify as abuse. I don't know the specifics, but it sounds like they cut a profit sharing deal to authors. It does not sound like it was an exclusive deal, and the author can still sell his/her digital work elsewhere. So where is the crime?


RE: Losers
By omnicronx on 8/24/2009 1:05:43 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not saying there is a crime being committed, I just think some ground rules should be set.

Furthermore passive abuse is still abuse, if Google gets almost all publishers on bored and no other company has the resources to compete with the revenue sharing deals that were reached, it could be considered abusive.

Personally I think MS/Yahoo n co. are reaching a bit here, but other markets such as the online search market should be in its own market, and not considered part of the entire advertising market as a whole like Google would to claim.

Mark my words this will be Google's first defense if this were to ever come to fruition. Precedent needs to be set, and there is no time like the present ;)


RE: Losers
By bhieb on 8/24/2009 2:03:25 PM , Rating: 2
Wasn't really saying you said that, just a comment in general.

quote:
Furthermore passive abuse is still abuse, if Google gets almost all publishers on bored and no other company has the resources to compete with the revenue sharing deals that were reached, it could be considered abusive.


Well if they want to compete then compete, offer the publishers a better rate and steal the business. Just because a company is extremely efficient, and offers a product at a lower rate does not constitute anything illegal. It is capitalism at it's finest. I just get sick of companies crying foul just because they cannot compete at the same level.

The only problem I see here is that Google is pulling another one of their "opt-out" schemes. Just putting all the books up there, and then saying "well if it is yours let us know", is very shady. Certain things should not be opt-out, and publishing known copyrighted works should be one of them.

Love this as an example.
http://www.theonion.com/content/video/google_opt_o...


RE: Losers
By omnicronx on 8/24/2009 3:28:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well if they want to compete then compete, offer the publishers a better rate and steal the business. Just because a company is extremely efficient, and offers a product at a lower rate does not constitute anything illegal. It is capitalism at it's finest.
I really don't think you have looked into what is happening here. The deal Google made with the authors guild for the use of 'orphaned works' is something that will probably never be repeated. As soon as Google Books takes off you will not be seeing any 150 million dollar deals, this was a one time deal, probably one that will NEVER happen again for anyone else. In this case NOBODY will be able to offer lower rates, Google will have a distinct advantage and could possibly be the only provider to legally sell 50-70% of all books released in the last 100 years.

They will be able to use their search dominance to push the product, and as such there is no reason to believe that a large majority of the other remaining percentage won't go to Google. This is with Amazon and Co selling their product for less!

This deal should not go through, I would rather an opt out system, this way anyone can make use of it. Prices for online books will increase, and will not benefit the consumer in the slightest. This is the very reason that monopolistic laws are in place, to protect the consumer, not the other 'whining companies'.

You are very incorrect if you think Capitalism is the wild west, there are many ways in which it is not legal to stifle competition, and I fear this could be one of them. This of course is my opinion on the matter, nor am I a lawyer, but it does not take a rocket scientist to realize this is gray area at best.


RE: Losers
By omnicronx on 8/24/2009 3:35:21 PM , Rating: 2
I would also like to point out that this would also make the authors guild a potential monopoly that could now control pricing and work that they most likely could not previously enforce.


RE: Losers
By Fritzr on 8/27/2009 5:44:37 AM , Rating: 2
Copyright law says the copyright owner controls who can publish. Sounds like the Author's Guild is claiming control of "owner unknown" works. If this is allowed then they have the legal right to issue a license to publish. A copyright owner can give one company an exclusive license. The only foul here is that the MS-Yahoo-Amazon alliance didn't make an offer first :) Now they will have to wait for the copyright owners to be unhappy with the situation and issue additional licenses for e-publishing/e-library use and/or online archive of works not for public release.


RE: Losers
By Jabroney701020 on 8/26/2009 1:45:09 PM , Rating: 2
I don't really know anything about the legal aspects of this issue but it sounds like something is missing from what you said. How does innovation happen with the rules being just as you said? Is there more information that describes how companies might go through product and technology development in order to develop new markets? I know that Intel is spending a lot of money in order to bring USB3 to the world market for free but is that really necessary for all new developments in all markets?


RE: Losers
By ClownPuncher on 8/24/2009 6:32:40 PM , Rating: 2
Old fashioned as I might be, i have to ask; is there a huge market for digital books? I buy alot of books and I don't have any plan to read them in PDF format or on an ebook reader, still prefer actual books.


RE: Losers
By Oregonian2 on 8/24/2009 7:07:47 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, at least for textual books (novels, etc) electronic books will eventually dominate totally. I was given a Kindle 1 for my birthday nearly a year ago. I thought it a dumb idea previously, but I adored it once I got it. VERY unlike LCD display devices. The screen is very very easy on the eyes for long term reading, looks good even in full sunlight, and is very surprisingly good.

Now for some things like photo-books and a lot of other specialized books I can't see it going electronic anytime soon -- but for plain novels and the like, the time is here now -- just a matter of getting the word out and the prices down (on the Kindles or competitors).


orphan works
By xsilver on 8/24/2009 11:10:51 AM , Rating: 2
Can someone elaborate on how 50-70% of books published after 1923 are "orphan works" ?

Are these by volume and not sales?
Im thinking some lame DIY self help/get rich quick/blog type "books" - am I wrong?




RE: orphan works
By nafhan on 8/24/2009 11:58:29 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
An orphan work is a copyright work where it is difficult or impossible to contact the copyright holder.

A book that sold 5 copies would count as 1 book, and so would a book that sold 5 million copies. You would quite possibly have trouble finding the copyright holder for the former, because not enough people care about the book to make it worth publishing or even keeping track of (doesn't mean the book is useless, though).


which is it?
By invidious on 8/24/2009 12:44:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Some authors don't think the relationship with Google is unhealthy. Michelle Richmond, author of the New York Times best seller The Year of Fog, states, "The thing I keep hearing from authors is 'I don't know what this settlement really means'. But this is the brave new world and we don't really know where it is going. Most authors work for so little and start from the point of we are doing this for the love it. But when there is this company that has nothing to do with the creation of the book or its publication, I think a lot of authors are concerned about this being a portal to greater access to their work without compensation for writers."
The topic sentense is contradictory to the body of the paragraph. If authors are concerned about not getting compensated how does that mean they "don't consider it unhealthy". I think you confused yourself with your own double negative.




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