Steven Levy asks Who’s Messing With the Google Book Settlement? and answers "Hint: They’re in Redmond, Washington."
Last October, Google settled the lawsuit brought against it by book publishers and authors concerning its massive book-scanning project. The $125 million deal gives Google the right to store digital copies of the books, include them in its search results, sell online versions and license its book-scans to libraries. It also allows millions of "orphan" works (books still under copyright but whose copyright-holders can’t be found) to be included in Google’s program.
The only obstacle remaining for the settlement to take effect is final court approval. Given a case of this scope, it’s not too surprising that a number of interested parties might lodge objections or ask for changes. Nor is it terribly surprising that at least one party nudging its way into the settlement is an internet-issues-oriented group from New York Law School.
But what does raise an eyebrow is the source of New York Law’s funding on this matter: Microsoft.
Hit the link for the details – I liked the part where the chief investigator of the New York Law School project is James Grimmelmann who used to be a Microsoft programmer.
At a conference in February, Grimmelmann was discussing his views of the book settlement with a policy specialist of his former employer, and the Microsoft exec reminded Grimmelmann that the company has had a continuing interest in funding academic efforts.
And a timely reminder it was too, I’m sure. The hilarity is somewhat tempered by the uncertainty as to what the New York Law group will actually say in their brief, but I expect that their promise to request that the Court "solicit the opinions of the Anti-trust Division of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission" gives more than a hint.
Microsoft gave up their own book scanning aspirations last May, but providing a little legal trouble for competitors is a time honored tech industry pastime. For another recent Microsoft example see Ashlee Vance’s article on IBM’s legal troubles over mainframe technology with Platform Solutions and T3 Technologies who were/are financially supported by Microsoft.