Google’s (GOOG) controversial book search application has resulted in a proposed settlement with authors and publishers that has angered consumer groups and now has attracted the attention of the Obama administration’s Justice Department. The concern is that the deal could give Google an unfair advantage over competitors, possibly violating anti-trust laws.
Sam Gustin of Wired.com reports on the political dynamics behind the Justice Department’s moves:
The inquiry may or may not lead to a formal objection to the settlement, but one thing is for sure: the Obama administration’s newly minted Justice Department is taking antitrust concerns about Google seriously.
The inquiry is in its initial phase, and may not result in a formal investigation, let alone an official objection. But Eric Goldman, Director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law, said the government’s inquiry is designed — at least in part — to send Google a message that it is watching the internet giant very closely.
“This deal has been ripe for antitrust review from day one,” Goldman told Wired.com.
But rather than pursue a full-bore showdown with Google over the book settlement, a development Goldman views as unlikely, the Justice Department’s initial inquiry is meant to put Google on notice.
“Whether the Justice Department pursues an action or not, it has already sent a message to Google just by having the investigation publicly revealed — we’re watching, and we’re suspicious,” Goldman said. “I think Google already knew it was going to tangle with the Justice Department during the Obama administration, but this sends the message loud and clear.”
For lots of great background on the book search deal, read the whole article.