Amazon Making A Lot Of Noise In Google Books Case


First, Amazon last week joined the Open Book Alliance -- a consortium established to "insist that any mass book digitization and distribution effort be open and competitive." The Open Book Alliance also includes Microsoft, Yahoo and a number of author groups and library networks opposed to Google's book scanning project.

But Amazon also filed a court brief Tuesday, saying the difference between its previous scanning efforts and Google's is that Google scanned out-of-print but still-copyrighted books without receiving permission to do so -- so-called "orphan books" for which Google would be the exclusive distributor.

According to Amazon's brief, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, "Amazon also brings a unique perspective to this court because it has engaged in a book scanning project very similar to Google's with one major distinction: As to books still subject to copyright protection, Amazon has only scanned those for which it could obtain permission to do so from the copyright holder."

Amazon goes on to add that the settlement is "unfair" to authors and other rights holders, that a "court cannot approve a class-action settlement that violates federal antitrust laws," and that the Google settlement "represents an unprecedented rewriting of copyright law through judicial action."

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The roots of the Google Books settlement stretch back to 2004, when authors, publishers and other rights holders to books fled a class-action lawsuit against Google for scanning copyright-protected books. Google argued that its scanning of copyrighted books came under fair use, as it only displayed a snippet of the books themselves. In October 2008, Google settled with the authors and publishers for $125 million, but the settlement has been under judicial review ever since.

Amazon, of course, has much to gain by boxing Google out of the e-book business: Google and its forthcoming digital book ecosystem -- which just announced U.K.-based Coolerbooks as a new partner -- represent definite competition for Amazon and Kindle.

And Kindle, from Sony to Plastic Logic and beyond, has plenty of e-book competition already.