Google has come under fire again with the American Department of Justice after alleged anti-competitive behaviour, this time in the world of literature.
At the end of October last year, Google brokered a deal with the Authors Guild and the Association of American publishers as part of the $125 million Google Book Search settlement, which granted the search engine access to a substantial amount of in-copyright books and other literary material.
However, now many authors, publishers and agents are concerned about Google digitising work where the copyright is ambiguous, due to the lack of an author or any formal agreement in writing such as orphan books.
Therefore, the American Department of Justice is performing its second recent antitrust investigation (after the ad deal with Yahoo) into the exclusivity the license will give Google, who will then stand to profit massively from millions of books they didn’t even write.
This is an important issue, as not only should we be encouraging the continued use of actual books and reading from a paper page rather than electronic, but also the vast amount of information Google has access to; take the recent Street View controversy for example.
Google’s aim is to organise the globe’s information, which sounds very helpful, but if the entire world gets all its data from a single source, then our knowledge is funnelled down one channel, without competition or verification. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and it sounds more like the prelude for an Orwellian dystopia than for the iPod moment for literature.