Libraries ask for oversight of Google books product

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three library associations have asked the Justice Department to oversee Google’s plans to create a massive digital library to prevent an excessively high price for institutional subscriptions, the groups said on Thursday.

A woman stands among the bookshelves in the main reading room of The New York Public Library, December 14, 2004. REUTERS/Mike Segar MS

The American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries and the Association of Research Libraries said that there was unlikely to be an effective competitor to Google’s massive project in the near term.

It asked the government to urge the court to use its oversight authority to prevent abusive pricing of the online book project.

“The United States should carefully monitor implementation of the settlement, including the pricing of the institutional subscription,” the library organizations said in their letter, which was dated December 15 but released on Thursday.

It was addressed to William Cavanaugh, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Google’s plan to digitize millions of books has been criticized by a variety of sources.

In addition to the libraries’ concerns about the product being a high-priced must-have, Amazon, along with Microsoft and other Google rivals, have vociferously criticized the plan.

The digitizing project spawned a lawsuit in 2005 brought by authors and publishers who accused Google of copyright infringement for scanning libraries of books.

Google, the Authors Guild and publishers have settled that lawsuit and last month submitted a revised agreement aimed at answering antitrust and copyright concerns raised by the U.S. Justice Department.

There will be a fairness hearing on the amended settlement, which must be approved by a court, on February 18, 2010.

The case is The Authors Guild et al v. Google, Inc., U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 05-08136.

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing Bernard Orr