Google’s quest to make millions of books searchable online will go forward now that that it’s worked out a settlement with the Author’s Guild for $125 million. The deal ends copyright infringement lawsuits that publishers and authors unleashed against the Google Library Project when it was announced three years ago.
Under the agreement, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) will pay $125 million to create a Book Rights Registry. Authors and publishers can register their works at the BRG and receive compensation from institutional subscriptions or book sales.
The settlement ends a three-year legal challenge that threatened to snuff out Google’s plans to make many of the world’s great books searchable online. The Authors Guild filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2005, charging that Google’s plan to digitize the entire collections of five libraries violated the copyrights of those books’ authors.
The Association of American Publishers (AAP) followed with its own suit against 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.
The agreement could be seen as a pivotal case that addresses copyright infringement issues on the Web at a time when distribution of media online is exploding in growth.
In addition to Web sites, there are other alternative to print such as the so-called e-Book readers headed by Amazon’s Kindle device which has seen an up tick in sales. Tuesday, the Christian Science Monitor announced that next year it would stop publishing the daily edition of the venerable newspaper (in favor of a weekly edition), and move its daily news coverage online.
Publishing and intellectual property groups are cheering the news. Arts&Labs, a recently formed, high profile coalition of content creators and technology companies, lauded the agreement.
“The agreement demonstrates that collaboration between the technology
community and the creative community can give consumers access to a wealth
of resources while also preserving copyright owners right to control how
their work is distributed online and to earn fair compensation for their creativity,” said Arts&Labs co-chairs Mike McCurry and Mark McKinnon, in a statement.
Roy Blount Jr., president of the Authors Guild, put out a statement that summed up the lament many authors felt about the potential impact of Google’s book scanning project. “It’s hard work writing a book, and even harder work getting paid for it. As a reader and researcher, I’ll be delighted to stop by my local library to browse the stacks of some of the world’s great libraries. As an author, well, we appreciate payment when people use our work. This deal makes good sense.”
Google said the agreement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright owners, provides an efficient means for them to control how their intellectual property is accessed online and enables them to receive compensation for online access to their works.
If the agreement is approved, Google said consumers would gain greater access to out of print books; have more choices to buy copyrighted books online and give colleges and other institutions the ability to offer online access to millions of books online from some of the world’s most highly regarded libraries. Consumers would also have free access to millions of out of print books at local libraries offering Internet access.
The agreement awaits approval by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, but already groups such as Arts&Labs are saying it could “open the door to additional innovation and may potentially provide a model for legal access to other types of artistic content.”