[LINK] EPIC Moves to Intervene in Google Book Settlement

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Wed Sep 16 07:31:48 AEST 2009

September 15, 2009

[2] EPIC Moves to Intervene in Google Book Settlement

On September 4, 2009, EPIC filed papers in federal district court on the
proposed settlement between Google, authors, and publishers. The Google
Books Settlement would create a single digital library, operated by
Google, but currently fails to limit Google's use of the personal
information collected. EPIC stated that the settlement "mandates the
collection of the most intimate personal information, threatens
well-established standards that safeguard intellectual freedom, and
imperils longstanding Constitutional rights, including the right to read
anonymously." EPIC further warned that the Google Books deal "threatens
to eviscerate state library privacy laws that safeguard library patrons
in the United States." EPIC has previously participated as a "friend of
the court" in many cases involving privacy issues. The Court denied EPIC
Intervenor status, but invited EPIC to advocate for readers' privacy as
an Objector to the proposed agreement.

The Google Books project began in 2004 as an online research tool and
database that permitted access the full or partial text of millions of
books. Google entered into agreements with several libraries to digitize
books, including books protected by U.S. Copyright law, in those
libraries' collections. In 2005, the Authors Guild and several
publishers sued Google. The rightsholders alleged that the project's
digitization process infringed their copyrights. In response, Google
argued that its digitization of the books is permitted under U.S.
Copyright law. In 2008, the parties negotiated a proposed settlement.
The federal court for the Southern District of New York must analyze the
settlement's fairness, and approve or reject the terms. EPIC told the
Court that "the proposed settlement profoundly implicates the privacy
interests of millions of Internet users, ... yet none of the parties to
the agreement represents these interests."

Days before EPIC's filing, Federal Trade Commission Chairman John
Liebowitz issued a statement, calling attention to privacy concerns and
the vast amount of consumer information that could be collected. The
Chairman expressed the Commission's commitment to evaluating the privacy
issues presented by Google Books, a sentiment that was echoed by
Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour in her statement. In a separate
letter, FTC Consumer Protection Director David C. Vladeck urged Google
to address consumer privacy concerns and to limit the secondary use of
user data.

In July, the Department of Justice announced an investigation into
Google's proposed settlement with book publishers and authors. The
Department "determined that the issues raised by the settlement warrant
further inquiry," and noted that commentators have "expressed concern
that aspects of the settlement agreement may violate the Sherman
[anti-trust] Act." The announcement followed the European Commission's
notice of a similar investigation. The European Commission met on
September 7, 2009 to examine the proposed settlement.

EPIC has a long history of opposing actions that consolidate data
concerning users' online habits. On April 20, 2007, EPIC and other
privacy groups filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission,
requesting that the agency open an investigation into the proposed
Google/Doubleclick merger. EPIC identified specific privacy threats
arising from the heightened ability of the merged company to record,
analyze, track, and profile Internet users' activities. The Department
of Justice later scuttled Google's proposed deal with Yahoo based on
similar privacy concerns. The Department's probe focused on Google's
growing power in advertising.

EPIC's Motion to Intervene:

EPIC Google Books Settlement and Privacy:

Google Books Settlement: 

FTC Chairman John Liebowitz's Statement Concerning the Google Books

FTC Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour's Statement Concerning the Google
Books Settlement:

FTC Consumer Protection Director David C. Vladeck's Letter Concerning
the Google Books Settlement:


Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

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