Google Vs Copyright

Google's vision to organise the world's information and make it available to everyone led to the Google Book project. The project involves digitally scanning the collections of a number of US University research libraries including Harvard University. For books out of copyright Google have made the entire book available online and for materials under copyright, users are able to view snippets, usually a few pages, from the book for free. For out of print books, there will be an option to pay to view the full book1.

Copyright Action

The Authors Guild2 sued Google for copyright infringement in September 2005. According to Stross 3 Google was "utterly surprised" with the objections and the resulting legal issues, Stross3 further elaborates that Google "had viewed book scanning as a practical matter of addressing engineering issues at scale".

The Settlement

In November 2009, Google announced details of a settlement with the Authors Guild and launched a book settlement site4 for authors to claim their settlement fees. The terms of the settlement only covers Authors and Publishers in the United States and applies to "books and other works published on or before January 5, 2009"5.

Maxymux6 highlights there are three options for authors and publishers with regards to the proposed settlement "First, they can decide to opt out of the settlement. In that way, they would maintain their right to sue Google and its partner libraries for copyright infringement…..Second, authors of copyrighted works can choose to do nothing, and on a de facto basis, they would become part of the agreement and lose their right to sue. Third, authors of copyrighted works can claim a cash payment for their scanned works and possibly receive further revenue based on commercial uses of those works by Google Books". Maxymuk also points out the requirement for Google to "spend $34.5 million to establish a Book Rights Registry that will maintain a database of copyright holders"6. This has led to the formation of the Google Book Settlement Site mentioned above.

Writers Revolt

The deadline for writers to opt out of the settlement is 28 January 2010 and this has led to petitions in some writing circles asking writers to opt out. The most recent example is spearheaded by science fiction writer Ursula K Le Guin7 who has organised a petition "signed by almost 300 authors, asking that the US "be exempted from the settlement", and "that the principle of copyright, which is directly threatened by the settlement, be honoured and upheld in the United States"".

1. Google Books. // Google Books Settlement Agreement. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 04 Jan 2010].
2. Authors Guild //The Authors Guild Vs Google Inc.. 20 Sep 2005 [Online] Available from: [Accessed 20 Jan 2010].
3. STROSS, E.R. Planet Google : one company's audacious plan to organize everything we know, New York: Free Press, 2008, p.12.
4. Google Book Settlement. Information. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 04 Jan 2010].
5. Google Book Settlement. Amended Settlement Agreement (in English). [Online] Available from: [Accessed 04 Jan 2010].
6. MAXYMUK, J. A license to digitally print money. The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances, 2009, 22 (2) pp. 55-58. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 02 Jan 2010].
7. Ursula Le Guin leads revolt against Google digital book settlement. 22 Jan 2010 [Online] Available from: [Accessed 24 Jan 2010].
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