Google Settles Key Copyright Case

By Cameron
October 28, 2008

This morning Google announced the settlement of a lawsuit brought against them by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over their Book Search technology. Google launched this product several years ago, which indexes books that Google scans from partnering university libraries. Book Search allowed full access to out-of-copyright material and snippets of works that were still copyrighted. It quickly became a controversial topic in the copyright wars as publishers claimed that the snippets were still a violation of copyright. Google claimed it was a Fair Use of the works because the full text was still protected and that it greatly enhanced the public’s access to these materials. Here is a summary of the agreement from their press release:

The agreement promises to benefit readers and researchers, and enhance the ability of authors and publishers to distribute their content in digital form, by significantly expanding online access to works through Google Book Search, an ambitious effort to make millions of books searchable via the Web. The agreement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright owners, provides an efficient means for them to control how their intellectual property is accessed online and enables them to receive compensation for online access to their works.
If approved by the court, the agreement would provide:

  • More Access to Out-of-Print Books – Generating greater exposure for millions of in-copyright works, including hard-to-find out-of-print books, by enabling readers in the U.S. to search these works and preview them online;
  • Additional Ways to Purchase Copyrighted Books – Building off publishers’ and authors’ current efforts and further expanding the electronic market for copyrighted books in the U.S., by offering users the ability to purchase online access to many in-copyright books;
  • Institutional Subscriptions to Millions of Books Online – Offering a means for U.S. colleges, universities and other organizations to obtain subscriptions for online access to collections from some of the world’s most renowned libraries;
  • Free Access From U.S. Libraries – Providing free, full-text, online viewing of millions of out-of-print books at designated computers in U.S. public and university libraries; and
  • Compensation to Authors and Publishers and Control Over Access to Their Works – Distributing payments earned from online access provided by Google and, prospectively, from similar programs that may be established by other providers, through a newly created independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry that will also locate rightsholders, collect and maintain accurate rightsholder information, and provide a way for rightsholders to request inclusion in or exclusion from the project.

Under the agreement, Google will make payments totaling $125 million. The money will be used to establish the Book Rights Registry, to resolve existing claims by authors and publishers and to cover legal fees.

This was a pretty important case dealing with technology, copyright and Fair Use. It will be interesting to see what the legal pundits make of it.

A website with more details about the agreement is now online at:

A good summary of the agreement is available here: