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Is Google playing by the book?

The search giant is on its way to becoming the world's digital library, but a private monopoly raises questions.

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Many people on summer vacation may be deep into a juicy paperback right now. But while they're cooking through "Julie & Julia," or rocketing through the twists and turns of "The Time Traveler's Wife," the future of the book industry – who will control which books can be viewed online – is being weighed by a federal judge.

For several years Google, the Internet search and advertising giant, has been scanning millions of books for digital use. The aim of this huge effort is to make available online as much of the world's written record as possible. But shortly after Google began, it was sued by authors and publishers for alleged copyright infringement.

That class action suit led to a preliminary settlement last October. Among other provisions, it would allow authors to share in the profits if Google charges for access to these online books, which the company has not ruled out. With the advent of the Kindle and other electronic readers, so-called e-books are a fast-growing market.

This October, a judge is expected to make a ruling on the settlement. Already, the US Justice Department's antitrust division and the European Union have expressed interest in the settlement and raised concerns about issues of copyright and monopoly.


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