Google Resolves Book Search Lawsuits

    October 28, 2008

Google’s book-scanning and -sharing problems are, in short, almost gone.  Pending the approval of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Google has agreed to a host of steps that will satisfy the Authors Guild, John Wiley & Sons, the McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson Education, the Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster.

The Authors Guild and these five publishers had sued Google because it scanned, indexed, and displayed parts of copyrighted books without their permission.  Google’s imperfect approach left the companies without any income and users without much reading material.

Now, that second issue is being addressed as all the parties have agreed to give public libraries and universities free and complete access to millions of out-of-print books.  Other institutions will be able to subscribe to similar content.

Meanwhile, Google Book Search will provide the average user with more access to some in-copyright books.  A full 20 percent of their content should be open to previewing, whereas only snippets could be seen before.

Lastly, in regards to the matter of money, some big changes are taking place.  Google will provide ways for users to purchase copyrighted books, and will also pay $125 million to cover legal fees and establish the Book Rights Registry.  The Registry will then locate rightsholders and distribute payments earned from online access.

Richard Sarnoff, Chairman of the Association of American Publishers, stated as a result of all this, "This historic settlement is a win for everyone.  From our perspective, the agreement creates an innovative framework for the use of copyrighted material in a rapidly digitizing world, serves readers by enabling broader access to a huge trove of hard-to-find books, and benefits the publishing community by establishing an attractive commercial model that offers both control and choice to the rightsholder."