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6/28/2006
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German Publisher Drops Legal Action Against Google Library Project

While it has no bearing on legal actions in the United States, the German decision is noteworthy nonetheless.

German book publisher WBG on Wednesday dropped its legal action against Google Inc.'s controversial project to digitize library books, the search engine giant said.

WBG dropped its petition for a preliminary injunction against the Google Books Library Project after the Copyright Chamber of the Regional Court of Hamburg told the publisher that its legal action was unlikely to succeed, Google said.

The WBG objected to Google's initiative to scan copyrighted library books and display snippets in search results. Google argues that there's no copyright infringement, since the snippets shown are no more than what's available in the usual search results. People looking for the whole work are directed to retailers.

The same project is also underway in the United States, where Google is battling lawsuits filed by writers and publishers who claim Google needs their permission to scan their books into its database. The German decision has no legal bearing on the U.S. suits.

The German court indicated that neither the short excerpts nor the scanning of the publisher's books in the United States infringed on that country's copyright law, Google said.

In announcing the decision, Google reiterated its intent to continue its controversial project.

"Google is passionate about the digitization of books, which we believe benefits everyone by making the world's knowledge more accessible," David Drummond, senior vice president and general counsel, for the Mountain View, Calif., company said in the company's blog.

In the United States, Google plans to digitize books from the collections of Stanford University, Harvard University, the University of Michigan, Oxford University and the New York Public Library. The latter two are making available only books in the public domain.

The project sparked separate lawsuits filed last year by the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild. The organizations represent 10s of thousands of writers.

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