Google defends plans for online library

Google wants to put the world's books online, critics warn of a dangerously monopolistic situation
Google wants to put the world's books online, critics warn of a dangerously monopolistic situation

Google has leapt to the defence of its online book deal this week after reports that it is being reviewed by the US justice department.

An investigation is expected to examine whether or not the book search agreement with authors and publishers violates anti-trust laws.

Google reached a settlement with the US Author's Guild in October to create £85m fund to pay writers to have their works digitised.

Writers' appeal

A writers coalition – including trustees of Philip K Dick's estate and John Steinbeck's family – have asked for the court approval of the settlement to be extended, for other writers and copyright holders to have time to fully understand the consequences should Google's plans go ahead.

Quick to make its own case widely heard and understood, Google has explained what it sees as the benefits of uploading millions of books online, with Adam Smith, director of product management for Google Book Search noting on the Google blog:

"As the discussion continues, it's important to understand what readers stand to gain," notes Smith, adding "the settlement won't just expand access to out-of-print books, either... Because authors and publishers will have the ability to let users preview and purchase their in-print books through Google Book Search, readers will have even more options for accessing in-print books than they have today."

Monopoly concerns

The Authors' Guild and the Association of American Publishers took legal action against Google last year, claiming that the company's practice of scanning copyrighted books from libraries to use in its Book Search was a violation of copyrights.

"We felt the deal set up an unfair monopolistic situation for Google," Consumer Watchdog advocate John Simpson told the BBC.

"We do need to have the world's books digitised but I think there are very big concerns if one internet giant is able to dominate the digital market."


Adam Hartley