Library groups advise DOJ on proposed Google Book Search settlement

The American Library Association (ALA), the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) sent a letter to William Cavanaugh, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Antitrust Division yesterday, requesting the Division to advise the court presiding over the Google Book Settlement to supervise the implementation of the settlement closely, particularly the pricing of institutional subscriptions and the selection of the Book Rights Registry board members.

The letter, which was sent following a meeting the library groups had with the Antitrust Division, also recommended that the Division itself actively monitor the parties’ compliance with the settlement’s provisions.

In particular, the library groups urged the Division to ask the court to review pricing of institutional subscriptions whenever the Division concludes that the prices do not meet the economic objectives set forth in the settlement. In order to evaluate the price of an institutional subscription, the groups believe the Division should have access to all relevant price information from Google and the Registry.

The library associations assert that the Division should ask the court to review any refusal by the Registry to license copyrights in books on the same terms available to Google and to also review the selection process for the Registry Board to ensure the interests of all rightsholders are considered.

With an absence of competition for the proposed services, the settlement could compromise fundamental library values such as equity of access to information, patron privacy and intellectual freedom, according to the library associations who filed comments with the presiding judge on behalf of libraries and the public interest.