By MIGUEL HELFT
Published in The New York Times, September 20, 2009
Google and its settlement partners — the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers — argued that the agreement would not harm competition, and said they were confident that it would be approved in its current form by a federal court.
But the Justice Department, in a filing on Friday, made clear that the parties were busily negotiating modifications that would address some of the concerns raised. Those negotiations are likely to accelerate now that the Justice Department has said that it too believes the settlement raises serious legal issues and has urged the court not to approve it without changes.
Legal experts say the new round of discussions, and the government’s intervention, are almost certain to delay an agreement that Google and the other parties were eager to see ratified quickly.
“The news out of this is that there are frantic negotiations going on in back rooms right now,” said James Grimmelmann, an associate professor at the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School, which raised antitrust and other objections to the settlement. “The parties are scared enough to be talking seriously about changes, with each other and the government. The government is being the stern parent making them do it.”
Google, the guild and the publishers’ association said they were encouraged by the department’s view that the settlement offered many benefits, adding that they looked forward to addressing the department’s concerns.