Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Google Settles Lawsuit

In the last few days, news has come out that Google has settled, after two-and-a-half years of negotiation, the class-action lawsuit brought against it by the Authors Guild and five large publishers as representatives of the Association of American Publishers. The settlement is still pending approval by the US District Court.

Here’s a snippet of what the release 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.
You probably notice that word “compensation” in the release. Here’s what Publishers Lunch had to say:
Google will pay a total of $125 million, "to establish the Book Rights Registry, to resolve existing claims by authors and publishers and to cover legal fees." US copyright holders can register with the Book Rights Registry, a newly-established not-for-profit organization, and receive "a cash payment if their works have already been digitized."
Now, this does not mean that authors, the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and Google are against digitalizing books. Actually, it’s to the contrary.

In the announcement, AAP chairman Richard Sarnoff said:
This historic settlement is a win for everyone. 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 rightsholder.
On the AAP website, there’s what seems to be a joint press release. Here’s part of it:
If approved by the court, the agreement would provide:
More Access to Out-of-Print Books -- Generating greater exposure for millions of in-copyright works, including hard-to-find out-of-print books, by enabling readers in the U.S. to search these works and preview them online;
Additional Ways to Purchase Copyrighted Books -- Building off publishers’ and authors’ current efforts and further expanding the electronic market for copyrighted books in the U.S., by offering users the ability to purchase online access to many in-copyright books;
Institutional Subscriptions to Millions of Books Online -- Offering a means for U.S. colleges, universities and other organizations to obtain subscriptions for online access to collections from some of the world’s most renowned libraries;
Free Access From U.S. Libraries -- Providing free, full-text, online viewing of millions of out-of-print books at designated computers in U.S. public and university libraries; and
Compensation to Authors and Publishers and Control Over Access to Their Works -- Distributing payments earned from online access provided by Google and, prospectively, from similar programs that may be established by other providers, through a newly created independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry that will also locate rightsholders, collect and maintain accurate rightsholder information, and provide a way for rightsholders to request inclusion in or exclusion from the project.
Google co-founder Sergey Brin added:
Today, together with the authors, publishers, and libraries, we have been able to make a great leap in this endeavor. 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.
You can read the full settlement agreement online. It says it’s written in English, but I don’t consider legalese to be English.


  1. Thank you for a most welcome post, Helen. It's about time that the publishing world won a victory. I'm going to register because I have some money coming. :)

  2. Yea, Jean! Wouldn't it be nice to actually get that money!

  3. Wonderful! YAY! thanks for this comprehensive and satisfying update, Helen.

  4. I didn't see mine, but maybe I better look more carefully just in case. Could use some extra money.

    Morgan Mandel

  5. I didn't see mine, but maybe I better look more carefully just in case. Could use some extra money.

    Morgan Mandel

  6. Good luck Morgan! Hope you find your name.


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