Google's Deal With Publishers Investigated

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Antitrust investigators at the Justice Department are looking into a deal between Google and book publishers. Critics say the deal will give Google too much power over what could become a large segment of the online book market.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Keep Google's dominant position in mind when you consider this next story. This is a company that almost everybody uses anytime they search for anything online. Google has another venture involving books and this one has caught the eye of federal antitrust regulators. The company's top lawyer flew to Washington yesterday to meet with the government about Google's deal with book publishers. The fear is that this deal could give Google too much power.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL: The deal only covers books that are out of print, but are still protected by copyright. If you turn up a section of one of those books in a Google search, Google wants to be able to sell you a full digital copy of it.

Last October, Google made a deal with publishers over how to split the payments. In the deal, libraries are entitled to one free terminal that has free access to all the books.

But Michael Shatzkin, a publishing industry consultant, says several parties including libraries have raised objections to the deal. Library associations fear that if Google doesn't have competition, the fees for the subscriptions could be too high.

Mr. MICHAEL SHATZKIN (President & CEO, The Idea Logical Company): Many libraries are going to need more than one terminal and then that means they're going to have to buy access to the database, which means they're going to have pay whatever the fee is.

SYDELL: Google started scanning millions of copyrighted books without permission from publishers and authors. Right now the agreement between authors, publishers and Google is in front of the judge who must approve the settlement.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.

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