The German Government sent an Amicus Curiae document over to the NY court yesterday to intervene against the Google Book Search Copyright Class Action Settlement(1). It expresses the concerns of the German Goverment against the worldwide impact the settlement will have. The settlement of a class action lawsuit was brought by authors and publishers, claiming that Google has violated their copyrights and those of other Rightsholders of Books and Inserts, by scanning their Books, creating an electronic database and displaying short excerpts without the permission of the copyright holders.(2)
The problem: the German law doesn't know "class" as legal term. The current settlement would effect authors or right holders in general (the "class") and has a severe impact on service providers of similar services outside of the US as well.
Although IP access to digital books will use IP based geotargeting to restrict retrieval of information, this type of access control can easily be bypassed. Secondly, Google achieved a competitive advantage because it did not ask the rightholders before it started the Google Books initiative. Alternatives like EUROPEANA and libreka were at a disadvantage.
The German government argues in addition, that the settlement would infringe the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works ("Revidierte Berner Übereinkunft")(3) and the WIPO Copyright Treaty - WCT(4).
For sure the current legal solution would cement the power of one company in the way how it can handle copyright in the near future neglecting competition in this market. That's the reason why also other major market players Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo are cooperating against Google's recent activities. But also copyright holders might have to be active in the future to defend their rights.