Opponents claims that deal violates WTO trademark laws


Google is no stranger to allegations that it wields too much power in the search and advertising market online. However, one of the most controversial of the programs Google operates has been its book scanning project.

Many fear that by allowing Google to scan books and put them online, the company will have a monopoly and a competitive edge in the digital book market that other providers can’t match. Among the major tech firms that have spoken out against the Google Books deal are Microsoft and Amazon. Google fired back against the two companies in February 2010 stating that its scanning service would not harm libraries, which was one of the claims cited by opponents to the book scanning program.

As the deadline for the Google Books deal to move forward this summer draws near, opponents to the program are still fighting to stop the digitization of orphan works by Google. The latest attempt to stop the book deal comes from the Open Book Alliance (OBA) to convince the judge presiding over the case that the deal – reached between Google, the American Association of Publishers, and the Authors Guild -- violates provisions of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.

The provision being cited by the OBA states that no copyrighted works can be used without express permission of its author. The OBA has hired the legal firm Macht, Shapiro, Arato, and Isserles to represent them on the matter. Cynthia Arato, one of the partners at the firm, issued a memo concerning the case that read in part, "If approved, the settlement would (1) grant Google automatic rights to exploit digitally millions of books without requiring Google to obtain any authorization from any foreign copyright owner or author; and (2) require these foreign rights holders to jump through burdensome hoops simply to exercise a watered-down contractual right—that the settlement creates—to halt such use."

Google states that it has not yet fully reviewed the document, but it is sure that its deal with the publishers and authors unions meets all U.S. and international copyright laws. A Google spokesperson stated, "The settlement offers an extraordinary opportunity to unlock access to millions of books for students, readers, and researchers across the U.S. It exposes readers to information they might not otherwise see, and it provides authors and publishers with a new way to be found."

Arato maintains that the settlement infringes on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property rights rule that states any deal granted by a World Trade organization member to the nationals of one member country should be granted to all WTO members. So far, the Google settlement deal only applies to certain WTO member countries.

Arato said, "If the settlement is approved, it may give rise to legal action against the U.S. before an international tribunal and will certainly expose the U.S. to diplomatic stress." 


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