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Consumer Watchdog lauds DOJ stance on Google Books settlement

Posted: February 5, 2010 11:13 a.m.
Updated: February 5, 2010 2:25 p.m.
 
SANTA MONICA, Calif., /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Watchdog praised the U.S. Department of Justice yesterday for opposing the amended Google Books Settlement. The DOJ said that while there were improvements in the amended settlement, problems with class certification, copyright and antitrust issues remained.

"Google offered only minimal amendments to its original flawed deal and the key problems remain. The Department of Justice should be commended for standing firm in opposing this private deal that unfairly benefits the narrow agenda of one company," said John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog.

"The DOJ filing and the outpouring of other briefs from around the world opposing the amended settlement, such as the one filed by Consumer Watchdog, make it almost certain Judge Denny Chin will reject the deal."

Consumer Watchdog filed a friend-of-the-court brief opposing the settlement on Jan 28. Filed for the nonpartisan, nonprofit consumer group by Kasowitz, Benson, the amicus brief said the amended settlement remained anticompetitive and violates both U.S. and international law.

"The settlement still abuses the class-action mechanism and purports to enroll absent class members automatically into new business 'opportunities,' in violation of current copyright laws," the Consumer Watchdog brief said.

"This scheme acts to the disadvantage of absent class members and would result in unfair competitive advantages to Google in the search engine, electronic book sales, and other markets, to the detriment of the public interest. Along the way, the settlement raises significant international law and privacy concerns."

The brief concluded: "If, as Google claims, its 'limited' search-engine activities are protected by fair use, the public deserves an adjudication on this matter, to allow the creation of a competitive book-search market. And it is up to Congress to create a solution to the orphan-works problem that would allow all potential users to benefit, while protecting the copyright holders as well as international interests. The parties simply cannot justify this 'solution' which does not adequately protect the Rightsholders and unfairly benefits a single party. Accordingly, Consumer Watchdog respectfully asks that the Court not approve the settlement."

In April Consumer Watchdog asked the U.S. Justice Department to intervene in the Google Books settlement and Justice subsequently announced it was investigating the deal and then opposed the initial settlement. Chin has scheduled a hearing on the amended settlement for Feb. 18.

Consumer Watchdog, formerly the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C., and Santa Monica, Calif.

Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman LLP is a national law firm with more than 300 lawyers specializing in high stakes, complex litigation. The firm has offices in New York, Newark, Houston, Atlanta, Miami and San Francisco. For more information, visit kasowitz.com.

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