The US department of justice has launched a formal antitrust investigation into Google's proposed $125 million deal with the Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers. The project envisages scanning of millions of books into a searchable digital library.
The deal, formalised in October 2008, allowed compensation to copyright owners in return for displaying and online selling of their works. The deal is pending a review by US Federal Court.
The project christened 'Google Print Library Project,' takes snippets from millions of out-of-print but copyright-protected books that have been indexed online by the University of Michigan and other libraries. (See: Google's book scanning project runs into legal hurdles)
Deputy assistant attorney general William F Cavanaugh, writing to the New York District Court about the deal, said, "At this preliminary stage, the US has reached no conclusions as to the merit of those concerns or more broadly what impact this settlement may have on competition. However, we have determined that the issues raised by the proposed settlement warrant further inquiry."
"The US has reviewed public comments expressing concern that aspects of the settlement agreement may violate the Sherman (Anti-Trust) Act," Mr Cavanaugh said.
Google, as part of the deal, had agreed to pay $125 million to create a book rights registry for authors and publishers to register their works and receive compensation. Google could also utilise orphan works whose right holders were unknown. (See: Google settles with publishers; to pay $125 million)