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As Google Books battle draws on, Amazon makes its case

The harsh critique of Google’s 10-month-old settlement with U.S. authors and publishers emerged this week in a 41-page brief that Amazon filed.

By Michael LiedtkeAssociated Press / September 3, 2009

Exterior view of Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., is seen in this Oct. 19, 2006 file photo. Online bookseller Amazon.com Inc. is warning a federal judge that Internet search leader Google Inc. will be able to gouge consumers and stifle competition if it wins court approval to add millions more titles to its already vast digital library.

Paul Sakuma/AP/File

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SAN FRANCISCO

Online bookseller Amazon.com Inc. is warning a federal judge that Internet search leader Google Inc. will be able to gouge consumers and stifle competition if it wins court approval to add millions more titles to its already vast digital library.

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The harsh critique of Google’s 10-month-old settlement with U.S. authors and publishers emerged this week in a 41-page brief that Amazon filed in an attempt to persuade U.S. District Judge Denny Chin to block the agreement from taking effect.

A flurry of filings opposing and supporting the class-action settlement is expected by Friday — the deadline for most briefs in the case. At least two other Google rivals, Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., are expected weigh in with their opposition by then.

Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon are all part of a group called the Open Book Alliance, formed last month to rally opposition to the Google book settlement.

Other participants include the Internet Archive, the New York Library Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, representing about 1,500 authors, on Wednesday became the latest group to join the alliance.

The U.S. Justice Department, which is taking a look at Google’s book deal, has until Sept. 18 to share its thoughts on the case. That filing may provide a better indication whether Justice believes Google’s deal with authors and publishers would violate U.S. laws set up to prevent predatory pricing and promote competition.

Amazon left little doubt where it stands. Its brief brands the provisions of Google’s settlement as “a high-tech form of the backroom agreements that are the stuff of antitrust nightmares.”

Although not all the critics have been as strident as Amazon, opposition has been mounting to Google’s plans to create a registry that will sell digital copies of copyright-protected books on behalf of U.S. authors and publishers unless they withdraw from a class-action settlement. Even the German government expressed its opposition to the settlement earlier this week, even though the agreement only covers U.S. copyrights.