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Google Suspends Copyright Copies

Google won't scan any more copyrighted material found in libraries until November to give publishers time to determine what books they want showing up in the search engine, a Google official said Friday.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based search engine giant has been scanning copyrighted and public domain works under a project called the Google Library but will hold off on in-copyright works for the time being, said Adam Smith, product manager for Google Print.

According to a blog entry by Adam Smith, Google Print product manager, Thursday evening, the company won't scan copyrighted material from libraries in order to give publishers time to determine which bodies of work they don't want scanned by Google employees sifting through the book racks. As an alternative, publishers can decide to add the books to their Print publisher accounts with the company.

"We think most publishers and authors will choose to participate in the publisher program in order introduce their work to countless readers around the world," he said in the blog entry. "But we know that not everyone agrees, and we want to do our best to respect their views too."

As such, Google is instituting two new features to the program: Publishers can give Google a list of books they want added to their accounts if Google scans them from the library; conversely, publishers and copyright holders can give the company a list of books they don't want scanned.

The library project is related to another project at the search engine giant called Google Print, which puts books by publishers into the Google database, where Web surfers can view snippets of copyrighted books online relating to their search queries.

Google Print was launched in October 2004 as a way for people to find books relevant to their search queries. For users, it meant access to another level of information on the Web, a digitized and convenient alternative to visiting to the library. Publishers get incentives through contextual ad revenues, their brand name attached to every related search query and links for users to buy the book online.

The company ran afoul of some of its publishers and its trade organizations when it announced the Google Library Project, the day Google Print went live. It was an agreement Google made with several universities to digitize their research libraries.

Publishers were worried that their copyrighted material might be bypassed or circumvented. Google officials insist they'll only fully publish public-domain works, while providing nothing more than snippets of copyrighted material.

Officials at the Association of American Publishers (AAP) still have "grave misgivings" over Google's book projects despite the changes made by Google. The company's new policy does nothing to relieve publisher concerns, said Patricia Schroeder, president and CEO of the AAP.

"Google's procedure shifts the responsibility for preventing infringement to the copyright owner rather than the user, turning every principle of copyright law on its ear," she said in a statement. "Many AAP members have partnered with Google in its Print for Publishers Program, allowing selected titles to be digitized and searchable on a limited basis pursuant to licenses or permission from publishers. We were confident that by working together, Google and publishers could have produced a system that would work for everyone, and regret that Google has decided not to work with us on our alternative proposal."

Smith said his company has been in constant talks with publishers and believes the publishers understand what the Google Print project is trying to accomplish.

"It's important to note that the online books that are in copyright, what we're doing is consistent with the principles of Fair Use, and users can see a few short sentences around their particular search query," Smith said to internetnews.com.

John Wilkin, associate university librarian at the University of Michigan and project lead for Google Library there, said the partial suspension won't have much of an effect on its work.

"It's not a big issue for us. We think that the communication with publishers is very important, and we think Google's strategy to give publishers an opportunity to become acquainted with the changes is a good thing," he said. "Operationally, it doesn't really impact us; the volume continues, we're just doing things that are overwhelmingly out of copyright at this point."

Wilkin said the university doesn't know exactly how many books have been scanned by Google, which has a scanning operation set up on the campus, only that it's a very large amount.

"They've got a great deal of throughput on this," he said, "a lot of volume, and it's passing through very quickly."