ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An Update on the Google Book Scanning Project

Googlelogo Back in 2005 (time does fly when you're blogging), we mentioned Google's plans to scan basically all the books in the world and make them available on the Internet.  Publishers and authors were outraged by the project.  The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Google, publishers and authors have reached a settlement agreement in the book-scanning class action lawsuit (it is annoying, indeed, but subscription is required):

Under the terms of the deal, Google will pay $125-million to establish a Book Rights Registry, to compensate authors and publishers whose copyrighted books have already been scanned, and to cover legal costs.

The settlement, which still needs court approval to go into effect, would resolve a class-action lawsuit brought in 2005 by the Authors Guild as well as a separate lawsuit filed on behalf of the publishers’ association. Publishers and authors argued that Google’s scanning of books for its Google Book Search program was a flagrant violation of copyright law's provisions governing fair use.

“We had a major disagreement with Google about copyright law,” Paul Aiken, the guild’s executive director, said during a joint teleconference that Google and the publishers held with reporters. “We still do, and probably always will.” But he said that the parties had been “able to set those issues aside” for what “may be the biggest book deal in U.S. publishing history.”

The deal goes far beyond money. Richard Sarnoff, chairman of the publishers’ association, described it to reporters as “breathtaking in scope, groundbreaking for publishers and authors, and trailblazing for intellectual property in general.”

The settlement unlocks the full texts of books that searchers can only now read online in snippets.  For those interested in arcane or hard-to-get texts, it may be a real boon, as the Chronicle reports that "[i]nstitutions would be able to buy subscriptions so that their students and faculty members could have full access to complete texts. All public libraries in the United States would be given free portals for their patrons."

[Meredith R. Miller]

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