SAN FRANCISCO — This week’s ruling from U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin did more than complicate Google’s efforts to make digital copies of the world’s 130 million books and possibly sell them through an online book store that it opened last year.
It also touched upon antitrust, copyright and privacy issues that are threatening to handcuff Google as it tries to muscle into new markets.
“This opinion reads like a microcosm of all the big problems facing Google,” said Gary Reback, a Silicon Valley lawyer who represented a group led by Google rivals Microsoft Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. to oppose the digital book settlement.
Google can only hope that some of the points Chin raised don’t become recurring themes.
The company is still trying to persuade the U.S. Justice Department to approve a $700 million purchase of airline fare tracker ITA Software nearly nine months after it was announced.
Regulators are focusing its inquiry into whether ITA would give Google leverage to create an unfair advantage over other online travel services.
In Europe and the state of Texas, antitrust regulators are looking into complaints about Google abusing its dominance of Internet search to unfairly promote its own services.
And Google is still trying fend off an appeal in another high-profile case, one stemming from its 2006 acquisition of YouTube. Viacom Inc. is seeking more than $1 billion in damages after charging YouTube with misusing clips from Comedy Central, MTV and other Viacom channels.
A federal judge sided with Google, saying YouTube had done enough to comply with copyright laws in its early days.
Viacom is trying to reverse that decision in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
“Google has built a monopoly in search, and having a monopoly isn’t necessarily illegal,” said John Simpson, a frequent Google critic who has been following the company’s business practices for the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog. “The question is once you are in a monopoly position, how do you use it?”
Tuesday’s setback comes less than two weeks before Google co-founder Larry Page takes over as the CEO.
Building a digital version of ancient Egypt’s fabled Library of Alexandria has long been one of Page’s pet projects. He and his partner, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, say they want to provide access to all the knowledge in the world’s books to anyone with an Internet connection.