Google has entered into a revised agreement with the University of Michigan over its rapidly expanding digital library, allowing the school to protest any pricing that the search-engine giant might impose on institutional subscriptions.
The new agreement signed with the University of Michigan, which can be found here, seems tailor-made to refute the storm of criticism that Google has received over its digital library project, which has focused on scanning as many volumes as possible into an ever-expanding database.
The New York Times quoted Google co-founder Sergey Brin defending the digital project, saying, "There was no option prior to this to get these sorts of books online."
The University of Michigan can now object to any prices that Google sets for access to its digital collection, and moves any such disagreements to arbitration. The agreement also allows the school to keep digital copies of books that Google has scanned from other libraries.
Google attracted more negative attention than perhaps it bargained for with its goal to digitize the world's libraries. In April 2009, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, Consumer Watchdog, wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking the government to examine the settlement between Google, The Author's Guild, and the Association of American Publishers (AAP).
That settlement, Consumer Watchdog argued, deserved to be placed under government review because it gave Google the same financial terms of digital-book rights as any future competitor.
Google had been attempting to scan "orphan books," or volumes under copyright whose rights-holders cannot be found, into its database.
The next month, in May 2009, Google was challenged again by the American Library Association and Association of Research Libraries, which argued that Google had the potential to monopolize both digital books and readers' privacy rights.
In a court filing, the librarians' groups asked for "vigorous oversight" of the deal between Google, the Author's Guild, and the Association of American Publishers.
Reports from that time had Google in discussions with the Justice Department over a potential antitrust case. However, such questioning does not automatically lead to legal action.
Before Google's annual shareholder meeting on May 7, Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggested that his company would have to be "more careful about when and how we do things" in the face of others' antitrust concerns.