Google Settles Epic Lawsuit With Publishers

Google and the American Association of Publishers, whose members are 300 of America’s largest publishers, have settled their 7-year-old legal dispute over digitizing books for Google Books.

The settlement will give Google access to publishers’ journals and books that are in copyright, for its Google Library project.

The Google Books Library Project is Google’s effort to scan and make searchable the collections of major research libraries. It’s part of the Google Books project.

However, the settlement doesn’t address the concerns of the Authors Guild, which is in litigation with Google over Google Books.

“The framework of this settlement is for works where the copyright is the publisher’s,” AAP spokesperson Andi Sporkin told the E-Commerce Times. “You’d need to speak to Google about the authors.”

The Provisions of the Settlement

The settlement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright holders.

Publishers in the United States can choose whether to let Google digitize their books and journals or not. Those that allow digitization will get a digital copy for their use.

U.S. publishers can make individual agreements with Google for use of their other digitally scanned works.

The settlement resolves litigation filed in 2005 against Google by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson Education, Penguin Group (USA), John Wiley and Sons, and Simon & Schuster.

Google had reached a settlement with the AAP and the Authors Guild previously, but that settlement was rejected by the courts.

What About the Authors?

The Authors Guild, whose members number 8,000 published authors, literary agents and attorneys, had launched its own lawsuit in 2005 against Google over the digitization of books.

Since the rejection of an earlier settlement proposed by Google, that litigation continues. It has since been given the green light for expansion into a class-action suit, but Google has appealed that decision and the class-action suit has been stayed until the appeal against it is heard in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Google’s settlement with the AAP will cover a fair number of works because authors are not necessarily the holders to the copyright of their works.

“There are a number of arrangements that could exist depending on the work, individual arrangements between authors and publishers, and the industry sector,” the AAP’s Sporkin told the E-Commerce Times. “In some cases the publisher has the copyright, in other cases the author has the copyright and the publisher licenses it, and there are cases where the author has the copyright.”

Settlement Effects

It’s not clear whether or how Google’s settlement with the AAP will affect the Authors Guild’s lawsuit with the Internet giant. Since Google’s settlement covers only publications whose copyright is held by publishers, it looks as if authors who hold copyright may not have their books scanned.

“Google is the best source for an answer here,” the AAP’s Sporkin said.

Google spokesperson Maggie Shiels referred the E-Commerce Times to the company’s press release when approached for a comment.

The Authors Guild did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

The Guild, together with other organizations and various individuals, has similar litigation filed againstHathiTrust, a collaborative repository of digital content from research libraries, including content digitized through the Google Books project and Internet Archives as well as by the libraries themselves.

HathiTrust was founded in October 2008 by the 13 universities belonging to the Committee on Institutional Cooperation and the University of California.

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