By MIGUEL HELFT in The New York Times, April 28, 2009
The inquiry does not necessarily mean that the department will oppose the settlement, which is subject to a court review. But it suggests that some of the concerns raised by critics, who say the settlement would unfairly give Google an exclusive license to profit from millions of books, have resonated with the Justice Department.
The settlement, announced in October, gives Google the right to display the books online and to profit from them by selling access to individual texts and selling subscriptions to its entire collection to libraries and other institutions. Revenue would be shared among Google, authors and publishers.
But critics say that Google alone would have a license that covers millions of so-called orphan books, whose authors cannot be found or whose rights holders are unknown. Some librarians fear that with no competition, Google will be free to raise prices for access to the collection.