The Department of Justice filed a statement of interest February 4 saying that despite "substantial progress" it still had objections to the proposed settlement of lawsuits challenging Google’s Book Search project, noting that the agreement continued to raise copyright, antitrust, and class certification issues.
While the filing said the amended settlement “is more circumscribed in its sweep” than the earlier proposal, it “suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation."
"At this time, in the view of the United States, the public interest would best be served by direction from the Court encouraging the continuation of settlement discussions between the parties," the filing said.
In a statement the Justice Department said it “is committed to continuing to work with the parties and other stakeholders to help develop solutions through which copyright holders could allow for digital use of their works by Google and others, whether through legislative or market-based activities."
A Google spokesperson said in the February 5 New York Times that the DOJ’s filing “recognizes the progress made with the revised settlement, and it once again reinforces the value the agreement can provide in unlocking access to millions of books in the U.S."
Consumer Watchdog, which had filed a brief opposing the settlement, praised the Justice Department’s stance. “The Department of Justice should be commended for standing firm in opposing this private deal that unfairly benefits the narrow agenda of one company,” said John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate with the nonprofit group. "The DOJ filing and the outpouring of other briefs from around the world opposing the amended settlement, such as the one filed by Consumer Watchdog, make it almost certain Judge Denny Chin will reject the deal."
A fairness hearing on the settlement is scheduled for February 18.