Microsoft hates Google so much that it’s funding a bunch of law school professors to try and derail the Google books settlement.
Last fall, Google agreed to pay $125 million to authors and publishers to settle a copyright infringement lawsuit over the search engine's efforts to put books online. New York Law School —a hereto unheard-of bastion of legal thought — says that the settlement screws the public, the owners of so-called “orphan works,” and raises anti-trust concerns. In a March 27 letter (.pdf) to the court, NY Law School says it wants to file a brief opposing parts of the settlement — and, oh yeah, the letter mentions that Microsoft, out of the goodness of its consumer-interest heart, is funding the research for the public good. Right. Has nothing to do with Microsoft’s ongoing (and ironic!) campaign to highlight its rival’s monopolistic tendencies. (A funny anecdote on this from Valleywag today.)
Works get orphaned when, for instance, a childless author dies a lonely death or someone never registers a copyright in the first place. The Google settlement would allow the orphans to be scanned into their online book database and sold with revenues going into a fund that can be claimed by the copyright holders, if they come forward.
The New York Law School folks argue, “Because potential competitors will be unable to make use of orphan works, Google will enjoy exclusive access to a large portion of the market for electronic versions of books. This exclusivity would result in a concentration of market power thereby facilitating actions that violate federal antitrust law.” The law school also argues that the authors of the orphaned works shouldn’t be included in the class settlement because they don’t have a say in the matter.
— Zusha Elinson