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House Committee Takes Up Google Books Project

The battle over the future of digital books moves to the House on Thursday as the Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on Google's controversial settlement with book authors and publishers that would give the search giant access to millions of titles.

The list of witnesses:
· Mr. David C. Drummond, Senior Vice President of Corporate, Development and Chief Legal Officer, Google Inc.
· Dr. Marc Maurer, President, National Federation of the Blind
· Mr. Paul Aiken, Executive Director, Authors Guild
· Mr. Randal C. Picker, Paul H. and Theo Leffmann, Professor of Commercial Law, University of Chicago Law School
· Mr. Paul Misener, Vice President of Global Public Policy,
· John M. Simpson, Consumer Advocate, Consumer Watchdog
· Ms. Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights, United States Copyright Office
· Mr. David Balto, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress

A federal court will hold a hearing Oct. 7 on the settlement. The Justice Department, which is also conducting a separate review of the antitrust implications of the settlement, has until Sept. 18 to file comments to the court.

The debate pits Google against tech rivals Microsoft and Amazon, who complain that the settlement would hand Google a dominant position in online book searches. Amazon's Kindle e-reader would directly compete with Google's book project.

The settlement isn't uniformly supported by authors, either. "Joy Luck Club" author Amy Tan, favors the deal. But "Wonder Boys" scribe Michael Chabon objects, saying among other things that the agreement raises privacy concerns as Google tracks information about readers' habits.

The outcome will likely influence how books are searched a consumed in the future as titles move from paper to digital formats. Under the proposed settlement between Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, the search giant would have access to millions of books except those by authors who opt out of the settlement. Google argues that the deal will help spur research and give schools, the disabled and the underprivileged greater access to books.

By Cecilia Kang  |  September 10, 2009; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
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