Google unfazed by government inquiries

June 10, 2009 6:32:31 PM PDT
The justice department is taking a closer look at Google's efforts to get into the online book business. Their investigation could stall a multi-million dollar agreement between the search engine giant and publishing companies.

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Google wants to make millions of books available online, but before it brings its digital library to life, the federal government has some questions. While the Justice Department won't say exactly what it is looking into, they appear to be concerned that Google's plans could squelch competition.

Tony West is a former Oakland attorney and federal prosecutor who was appointed to the Justice Department by President Obama.

The administration has indicated it will be more aggressive when it comes to regulating big business.

"So I think you will see fair, balanced enforcement of our antitrust laws," said West.

Critics say Google's deal does violate antitrust laws by giving the Mountain View Company too much control in the online book arena.

Last year Google settled a copyright dispute with publishers and authors agreeing to pay them $125 million and set up an online registry. The deal must first get court approval.

Catherine Sandoval is a law professor at Santa Clara University.

"The real concern is that the settlement is creating the potential anti-competitive affects, and we make sure the court process is not used in a way that the court process is somehow creates monopoly power," said Sandoval.

Google says it is cooperating with the federal investigation and a spokesperson said: "it is 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 U.S."

The Justice Department isn't talking about its concerns.

"Unfortunately there's not much light I can shed on that for you," said West.

A federal judge is holding a hearing on the Google matter in September, but many legal observers say the Justice Department probe could delay any ruling.

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