Google Print Hits The Fan

Publishing heavyweights have put their weight against an 800-pound gorilla: Google.

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) said it’s suing Google over its plans to digitally copy and distribute copyrighted works without permission of the copyright owners.

The AAP filed the suit on behalf of the McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson Education, Penguin Group (USA), Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons, asking the court to rule on whether the search heavyweight’s book-scanning activities within the Google Print Library Project infringe copyright, as well as for an injunction against any more copying without permission.

Many AAP members are participating in the Google Print Publishers’ Program, which lets them offer books for copying, specify how much of a book can be revealed to searchers and earn a share of revenue from ads shown by Google against search results.

But AAP President Patricia Schroeder said publishers were angry about the Library Program.

“Part of why they were so surprised that they went ahead with the library program is that every one of the plaintiffs is one of their partners in Google Print,” Schroeder said. “It’s a funny way to treat your partners.”

The 300-member AAP is the national trade association of the U.S. book industry, including commercial publishers, smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies. Members are responsible for about 75 percent of all books published in America.

The suit follows a similar one by the Authors Guild, which was filed in September.

In a statement supporting the AAP suit, Authors Guild President Nick
Taylor asked, “. . . What does it say about the so-called spirit of this giant company when it refuses to address the concerns of either authors or publishers while it exploits their investments and hard work for profit?”

Google Library was announced in December, soon after the launch of Google Print.

Google intends to scan the entire collections of Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of Michigan, as well as public-domain books from the collections of Oxford University and the New York Public Library.

But it was presented as a fait accompli, and Google already had been scanning books in the collection of the University of Michigan for nearly a year.

Jim Gerber, Google director of content partnerships, recently told that the search Goliath had to wait until all the contracts with libraries were signed before it could reveal the project to publishers.

The International Publishers Association and the American Association of University Presses also protested.

In response to publishers’ complaints, Google added two new features to the Library Project.

Publishers can give Google a list of books they want added to their accounts if Google scanned them from the library; or they can give the company a list of books they didn’t want scanned.

But the AAP thought that the onus should be on Google to respect copyright, not on publishers to stop what they saw as illegal copying, Schroeder said.

“We tried, believe me. We honored their request that we remain silent about it, and we negotiated all summer long and all fall.”

The AAP proposed that Google use the ISBN number, a unique number for every book published, to identify works under copyright and get permission from the copyright holder.

But last week, Google told AAP that it had rejected its proposals.

Google claims that scanning and indexing the books is covered by fair use guidelines; it’s taken to describing the Library Project as “creating a digital card catalog.”

“If that’s all they’re doing, they only need to copy the bibliographic material. If they want to make it searchable, it’s not longer a card catalog,” Schroeder responded.

In an e-mailed statement, David Drummond, Google’s vice president for corporate development and general counsel, said, “Google Print is an historic effort to make millions of books easier for people to find and buy.

“Creating an easy to use index of books is fair use under copyright law and supports the purpose of copyright: to increase the awareness and sales of books directly benefiting copyright holders. This short-sighted attempt to block Google Print works counter to the interests of not just the world’s readers, but also the world’s authors and publishers.”

Schroeder said, “I keep being blown away by how they seem to think they have the right to take everything from everybody, because it’s going to be so good for you. ‘You don’t get it, but fine, we’re going to take it.'”

She said that regardless of whether it might, for example, be good for someone in Bangladesh to be able to search through a book, “We have the right to decide these things.”

The AAP and the other publishing organizations have been criticized for “old media thinking,” but Schroeder said the organization will continue to work with the Open Content Alliance, which has similar plans to build a searchable index of works in print.

The group is led by Yahoo , HP , Adobe and the Internet Archive.

“Our guys totally get this,” she said. “They’re going to work with Yahoo, who is doing it right.”

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