The European Union is to instigate an investigation into the antitrust implications of Google’s book search service.
The US is already reviewing evidence on whether Google is hampering competition by acquiring the copyright on millions of digital works. Now the European Union is to hold a hearing on September 7 to investigate the copyright deal.
Google has scanned millions of books since 2004 to include in both its book contents search service and to sell in digital format. The company had agreed to share revenue with the copyright owners, but the Justice Department thinks the deal could compromise efforts by other companies to enter the digital book market and could give Google exclusivity on online works whose rights holders are unknown.
While Google’s $125 million putative copyright deal – stuck last October to resolve a class-action lawsuit filed against it by publishers and authors – applies only to the US, the European Union could still throw its not inconsiderable weight behind the US Justice Department in the case. Witnesses have been asked to pencil in July 30 as the date for a preliminary hearing.
A Google spokesperson said earlier this month that the company remained confident in the legality of the settlement: “It’s important to note that this agreement is non-exclusive and if approved by the court stands to expand access to millions of books in the US”
Libraries are also concerned that the deal could prove expensive for them when Google announces subscription rates.