The Justice Department Lubes a Finger and Smiles (Unreassuringly) at Google
The Justice Department has decided that they need to know more about the Google Book Settlement than the interested parties are willing to tell them. So the DoJ has now sent civil investigative demands to Google, the Association of American Publishers, and the Authors Guild.

The civil investigative demands are formal requests for private information, information that has been kept out of the public record as part of the terms of the settlement's non-disclosure agreement.

Stuff like: what's going on, isn't this outside of the ambit of a copyright-infringement settlement, how come the Author's Guild is allowed to do this, who is really benefiting here, etc.

The DoJ's probe will determine whether or not the settlement should be approved at all, rather than simply allowing changes made to the current terms, an option still on the table until September.

The announcement that the Google Book Settlement will be probed (and probed HARD) by the law is no surprise to those following the case. In fact, the DoJ announced they would be investigating the matter several months ago. But recently at this year's Book Expo America, Google announced that they would not only be selling old books, but new ones as well starting at the end of the year.

Hubris, perhaps? Like talking about what a good drug smuggler you are at the airport donut shop?

Additionally, the DoJ are not the only ones interested in what could be concealed up this settlement's furtive anus. The European Union has also strapped on a black leather glove and switched on a Maglight. The EU announced late last month that they have launched an official investigation, with an eye toward ascertaining whether the settlement will be a huge, ugly antitrust problem across the Atlantic in addition to in the States. In many countries in Europe, for instance, there's no such thing as "fair use." Google's scanning project would have been simply illegal there.

No one knows what the DoJ probe will turn up. Something illegal? Something rotten? All we know is that Google is a big company with many cavities, like the blob that Tetsuo becomes in the movie "Akira."

This cavity search will be lengthy and difficult, and Google, the American Association of Publishers, and the Author's Guild will probably not stop squirming, no matter how many times they are told that it will make things easier.

In other news, Google's stock dropped like twenty points this week, just like the jaw of a cocaine smuggler who has been informed that there is some paperwork they need to fill out before they are taken into the back room and searched completely and thoroughly by a "real sensitive professional."

For more information about all this, read or listen to our lengthy interview with Professor James Grimmelmann, the copyright law expert who is preparing an amicus brief about the settlement for the New York Law School.

Posted by miracle on Thu, 11 Jun 2009 21:39:49 -0400 -- permanent link

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