The Department of Justice dealt a serious blow Thursday evening to the chances that the Google Book Search settlement will gain court approval later this month when it found that the revised agreement still raises class certification, copyright and antitrust issues. The DOJ said that despite “good faith” efforts to modify the agreement, “the amended settlement agreement suffers from the same core problem as the original agreement: it is an attempt to use the class action mechanism to implement forward-looking business arrangements that go far beyond the dispute before the court in this litigation."

The DOJ said it remains committed to working with all stakeholders to fashion a settlement it could support, but there is no chance that the parties--the AAP, Authors Guild, and Google--have the time or inclination to make changes before the final fairness hearing set for February 18, and there is no expectation that a delay to the hearing date will be asked for. A prepared statement from the AAP, Authors Guild, and Google tried to make the most of the opinion, saying that the filing “recognizes the progress made with the revised settlement, and it once again reinforces the value the agreement can provide in unlocking access to millions of books in the U.S. We look forward to Judge Chin’s review of the statement of interest from the Department and the comments from the many supporters who have filed submissions with the court in the last months.”

While the DOJ said the revised agreement did limit the scope of the settlement, the changes “do not fully resolve the United States’ concerns.” Among those concerns is the DOJ’s belief that the amended agreement “still confers significant and possibly anticompetitive advantages on Google as a single entity, thereby enabling the company to be the only competitor in the digital marketplace with the rights to distribute and otherwise exploit a vast array of works in multiple formats.”