Google bends as book search deal deadline passes

Look, we all know the feeling.

You strike a $125 million deal giving you access to millions of out-of-print books, but it needs to be signed off by a federal judge. I mean, how frustrating! Well, that's just where Web search giant Google (GOOG) finds itself as the deadline expires at 10 a.m. Tuesday for submitting briefs to the court regarding its controversial book search deal with the Authors Guild and others.

In an indication of just how badly Google wants to get this deal done, the company has made two concessions in recent days in an effort to placate critics who charge that the deal would give Google wildly inappropriate power in the burgeoning market for digital books.
In the first concession, Google agreed late last week to institute a formal privacy policy for the book search deal, after pressure from privacy advocates and the Federal Trade Commission. In a letter to Google last Thursday, the FTC expressed its desire that that Google limit "secondary uses of data collected through Google Books, including uses that would be contrary to reasonable consumer expectations."

"The Google Books initiative could provide a wealth of benefits for consumers, yet it also raises serious privacy challenges because of the vast amount of user information that could be collected," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.

In response, Google announced the creation of a privacy policy specifically designed for its book search program. Although privacy advocates had been pushing for such a policy for months -- and some question whether the new policy even goes far enough -- it took FTC pressure, as well as the looming federal court deadline, to persuade Google to establish the new policy.

In another concession designed to blunt opposition to the settlement, Google has agreed to let two European representatives sit on the board which will administer the settlement, should it be approved by Judge Chin.

Google's proposed settlement would create an entity called the Books Rights Registry, which would be funded by Google and oversee payments to authors as well as have the ability to strike deals with Google's competitors.

"We listen to all concerns of stakeholders around the globe and we work hard to achieve the common goal of bringing back to life millions of lost books in a way that serves the interests of all," Bill Echikson, a spokesman for Google in Brussels, told Bloomberg.

"The European Union has sought precise details on the exact scope of the settlement" and "how many European works or publications will potentially be affected," the commission said in documents obtained by the news wire.

Opponents of the deal, led by the Open Book Alliance, which includes Amazon, Yahoo, the Internet Archive and Microsoft, continued to blast the proposed settlement right up until the deadline for filing briefs to Judge Chin's court.

"We are fighting this cartel that is being proposed by the parties to the U.S. settlement and Google," Peter Brantley of the OBA told reporters before the EU hearing.

Google, meanwhile, continued to make its case in the court of public opinion.

"There have been many organizations and individuals who have filed their support with the Court," Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich told DailyFinance in a statement. "They believe, as we do, that the settlement will open access to millions of books."

At 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, the matter finally goes before Judge Denny Chin. Let the arguments commence.

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