Congressional Hearing To Focus On Google Book Search

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The Google Book Search Settlement has taken yet another twist: in a
last minute announcement, the House Judiciary Committee today posted
notice that it would hold a hearing on “The Competition and Commerce in
Digital Books” or, in other words, the Google Book Search Settlement,
on Thursday, September 10, at 10 am. News of tomorrow’s hearing was
posted today—but clearly the hearing has been in the works for some
time, as it has an extensive witness list, including two of the Google
Book Search Settlement’s principal parties, as well as opponents and
proponents. Curiously, there is no witness from the publishing or
library communities. The witness list includes:


With the hearing, the Google Book Search settlement has now hit the
trifecta—all three branches of government are involved: the Judiciary
is overseeing the settlement; the Executive, via the Department of
Justice, is looking at antitrust issues; and now Congress, which brings
the widest possible government scope from which to address potential
issues with book digitization. It is unclear, however, why Congress is
now concerned with the settlement just weeks before the court is set to
consider approval of the deal. There is no related bill or measure
before them to consider, and Congress has shown little interest in the
settlement to date. 
Although Congress’ intentions may not be clear, Judiciary Committee
Chairman, John Conyers (D-MI) does have a history of guarding his
committee’s turf closely—turf which includes copyright and intellectual
property issues. In 2008, Conyers introduced the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,
a sweeping, publisher-supported bill that would ban public access
measures similar to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) open access
mandate, a measure passed via an appropriations bill. Last year,
Conyers (D-MI) lashed out at the House Appropriations Committee, telling CongressDaily
that he was frustrated by its refusal to engage repeated questions from
his committee about the copyright and intellectual property
implications associated with the NIH mandate. Conyers fumed that
appropriators acted “summarily, unilaterally and probably incorrectly”
in enacting the NIH mandate without his consultation, and suggested the
mandate encroached on his committee’s “sacred turf.”

Consumer Watchdog
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