The US Justice Department has advised a federal judge that a proposed legal settlement giving Google the digital rights to millions of out of print books threatens to thwart competition and drive up prices unless it's revised.
The brief filed in New York federal court on Friday marks the first time that the Justice Department has publicly shared its thoughts about Google's agreement with a large class of US authors and publishers.
The top law enforcement agency began looking at the Google book settlement earlier this summer amid a growing outcry against an agreement affecting a reservoir of human knowledge.
"The breadth of the proposed settlement ... raises significant legal concerns," the Justice Department wrote in its 28-page filing with District Judge Denny Chin.
Despite its misgivings, the Justice Department expressed confidence that Google and the author and publishers could negotiate changes so the settlement will adhere to US copyright and antitrust laws.
The Justice Department told Chin it hopes an acceptable compromise can be worked out because the agreement "has the potential to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits to the public."
While other critics such as Amazon and Microsoft also have objected in recent weeks, the Justice Department's opinion presumably will carry more weight with Chin. His approval is needed before the $125 million settlement can take effect.