Google may be guilty of antitrust violations for its Book Search initiative, reported several newswire services on Monday. The Department of Justice has opened an investigation of the search giant's settlement with the Author's Guild as of Thursday. But wait a minute--didn't Google settle that lawsuit for $45 million? What's the problem, Justice?
In a letter the DOJ issued to the judge overseeing the Google/AG case, investigators say that Google may have violated the Sherman Act by paying the Author's Guild its settlement. By doing so, the letter states, Google may have effectively bought a monopoly on the rights to all the "orphan" books in the country--books that are out of print, and whose copyright owners have died or gone out of business. That apparently doesn't sit well with regulators.
One possible outcome: Google may be asked to pay $125 million towards the establishment of a Book Rights Registry that would store and register the names and locations of book copyright owners. For that public service, they'd be allowed by the AG to show larger excerpts from in-print books on their Google Books database.