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Justice Department looking into Google book settlement

Some authors and Google critics have complained that the deal would hurt competition by giving the company a stranglehold over the burgeoning market for online books.

April 29, 2009|Alex Pham and David Sarno

The U.S. Justice Department is making antitrust inquiries into Google Inc.'s settlement with authors and publishers over the Internet giant's project to scan millions of books and put them online.

Some authors and Google critics have complained that the deal, agreed upon last year and pending a judge's approval, would hurt competition by giving the company a stranglehold over the burgeoning market for online books.

The Justice Department has met with Google at least once about the settlement, and more talks are scheduled, according to a person familiar with the matter, who added that Google had not been notified that a formal investigation has been launched.

Inquiries by law enforcement officials do not necessarily lead to formal investigations.

The Justice Department also contacted Consumer Watchdog after the Santa Monica advocacy group sent it a letter expressing concerns about the deal. "They talked to us with what I thought was great interest," John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog said.

Google declined to comment, and a Justice Department spokesman was not immediately available.

Separately Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin extended the deadline for authors to opt out of the settlement from May 5 to Sept. 4.

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alex.pham@latimes.com

david.sarno@latimes.com

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