Google Reaches $125 Million Settlement In Book Copyright Lawsuits

The deal with book publishers and authors would clear the way for Google Book Search to show digitized images of millions of in-copyright books and other library materials.
Google on Tuesday said it has agreed to pay $125 million to settle lawsuits from book publishers and authors who objected to the company publishing in search results snippets of in-copyright books and other written materials taken from libraries without permission of copyright holders.

The deal, which needs approval from a federal court in New York, would end a class-action lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild and book authors and a separate suit brought by five major publishers: the McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson PLC's Pearson Education and Penguin Group, John Wiley & Sons, and Simon & Schuster, owned by CBS. Both suits were filed in 2005.

The settlement, which followed more than two years of negotiations, would clear the way for Google to digitize, search, and show snippets of millions of in-copyright books and other library materials. A portion of the money from the deal would be used to establish a Book Rights Registry in which copyright holders could register their works and receive compensation from institutional subscriptions, book sales, and ad revenue. The remainder of the settlement would pay for works already digitized, resolve existing claims by authors and publishers, and cover legal fees.

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Today, together with the authors, publishers, and libraries, we have been able to make a great leap in this endeavor," Sergey Brin, co-founder and president of technology at Google, said in a statement. "While this agreement is a real win-win for all of us, the real victors are all the readers. The tremendous wealth of knowledge that lies within the books of the world will now be at their fingertips."

The Association of American Publishers called the settlement "historic."

"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 rights-holder," Richard Sarnoff, chairman of the AAP, said.

Roy Blount Jr., president of the Authors Guild, said in the guild blog that besides providing fair compensation to copyright holders, the settlement would be a big win for readers.

"Readers will be able to browse from their own computers an enormous collection of books," Blount said. "We hope this will encourage some readers to buy full online access to some of the books."

With the lawsuits settled, libraries at the Universities of California, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Stanford are expected to make their collections available to Google Book Search, the project that sparked the lawsuits. The project was originally established in 2004 as Google Print, and renamed in 2005.

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