After seven years, Google book scanning litigation ends

We were remiss in not mentioning that Google and the Association of American Publishers managed to reach a settlement last week in the controversial and long-running Google book scanning case. According to a statement released by the APP on October 4, the bottom line is this:

The settlement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright-holders. U.S. publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project. Those deciding not to remove their works will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use.

“We are pleased that this settlement addresses the issues that led to the litigation,” said Tom Allen, President and CEO, AAP. “It shows that digital services can provide innovative means to discover content while still respecting the rights of copyright-holders.”

I can’t imagine anyone will be arguing against the outcome of the settlement. It’s plainly obvious that giving publishers an actual choice as to whether or not a hugely powerful tech company can scan their books or not is the right thing to do.

Journalist Claire Cain Miller filed a great piece about the settlement for the New York Times on October 4; if you’re interested in reading up on all the various details, I’d suggest giving it a look. “Though the settlement will not change much about the way that Google and publishers already partner,” Miller writes, “it is the newest signpost for defining copyright in the Internet age. It is also the latest evidence of the shift to e-books from print, and of Google’s efforts to compete with e-book rivals like”

Also recommended: This Publishers Weekly piece, which goes into even greater (and slightly more complicated) detail.

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4 Comments on After seven years, Google book scanning litigation ends

  1. Giving publishers a choice to opt-in or not is far from settling this issue.

    If these publishers release a single book to Google without getting the permission of the author or his estate, both for this republication and for a digital edition, then a good case can be made that those publishers have violated the implicit and explicit provisions in their contract with the author, rendering it null and void. That’s particularly true if they intend to take money or things of value (i.e. digital copies) from Goggle. They can’t take that publisher slice of the Google money without establishing a means to also pay money to the author. That’s almost certainly a part of their original contract with the author. Contracts don’t have ‘will pay if convenient’ clauses.

    And if these publishers are no longer the publishers of the books in question, then they have got no right to make this sort of settlement. Without the permission of authors, this settlement self-destructs.

  2. Various writer organizations are up in arms because the publishers won’t share the details of this deal which affects writers far more than it does publishers.

    Victoria Strauss of “Writer Beware” gives an overview.

  3. I don’t see how you can say the litigation ends. The Authors Guild suit at is still going. This was the end of only one of the suits.

  4. @Michael – Yeah, you’re right. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m actually one of those authors. A guidebook I wrote for Avalon Travel Publishing/Moon Handbooks ended up on Google, and because of the way my contract was drawn up, I actually own the rights to the content – not the publisher. And yes, I’m rather displeased about the whole thing myself. For awhile I was getting info in the mail about a class action, but haven’t seen anything for ages.

    In the post, I suppose I was just referring to the much more simpler matter of whether or not Google should be allowed to continue getting away with their content theft. You’re quite right, though, that there are more issues than just that one that have yet to be resolved.

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