In April of this year, it emerged that the Justice Department had launched an antitrust probe in relation to Google’s settlement with the Authors Guild of America. At the time, people close to the situation told the New York Times that the Justice Department would not necessarily oppose the settlement, detailing that the inquiry is a result of complaints made by concerned critics who say the settlement would give Google an exclusive license to profit from millions of books.
Today the New York Times reports that the Justice Department has stepped up its antitrust investigation, and issued formal requests for information to several of the parties involved, including Google, the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and individual publishers. “They are asking for a lot of information,” said Michael J. Boni, a partner at Boni & Zack, who represented the Authors Guild in negotiations with Google. “It signals that they are serious about the antitrust implications of the settlement.” The NYT also notes that Attorney Generals in several states are also reviewing the situation.
Last October, Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers announced that the three had come to an agreement with regard to pre-scanned copyright protected books, and laid out prospective plans for future revenues. Google said it would give payments totaling $125 million, with the money being used to cover legal fees as well as establish the Book Rights Registry, aimed at resolving existing claims by authors and publishers.
This isn't the first time Google has come under fire from antitrust regulators in the United States. The search giant called off a proposed advertising deal with compeitor Yahoo! following pressure from the Justice Department.