Google Books Litigation and Settlements

The Google Books Project and Copyright Litigation

In 2004, Google announced that it would work with several libraries to scan and digitize books and make them available online on a database that came to be known as Google Books.  In 2005, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers filed suit in the Federal Court for the Southern District of New York for copyright infringement over its scanning and digitization of copyrighted works.  This page offers a brief overview of developments in the litigation.  In summary, the court rejected a proposed class-action settlement in 2011.  The publishers’ group entered into a private settlement in 2012, but litigation involving the authors’ group continues.

Background and General Information

The Google Books Project

Google & the Future of Books
 – Robert Darnton
Response to Google & the Future of Books
 – Paul Courant


Proposed Settlements

The parties to the lawsuit proposed a settlement in October 2008 under which Google could continue to make limited uses and sales of access to copyrighted books.  In addition to royalties to copyright owners, Google would pay $45 million up front to copyright owners whose rights had been infringed, plus more than $45 million toward the publishers’ and authors’ legal fees.  Google would also contribute $34.5 million to establish a Book Rights Registry, which would collect any revenues from Google Books and disperse them to copyright owners.

Faced with substantial opposition to the proposed settlement agreement, the parties amended the proposal in November 2009, limiting the scope of the settlement to books that are registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, regardless of their country of origin, and to books published in the United Kingdon, Canada, and Australia.  Despite the narrower scope and many other changes in the settlement plan, opposition continued.


Proposed Settlement, Amended Settlement, and Related Documents (from the Authors Guild Resources Page)

Guidance from the Library Copyright Alliance

Guide for the Perplexed – summary of the settlement agreement (October 2008)
Guide for the Perplexed II
 – summary of the Michigan agreement (May 2009)
Guide for the Perplexed III – summary of the amended settlement (November 2009)
Guide for the Perplexed IV
 – summary of the rejection of the amended settlement (March 2011)

Judge Chin’s Rejection of Settlement and Decision

On March 22, 2011, Judge Chin of the U.S. District Court handed down his ruling rejecting the proposed settlement of the Google Books litigation. See our summary (with links) here.  For a sample of views and analyses of the case, and its meaning for authors, publishers, libraries, and readers, have a look at the following links.

Articles and Commentary on the Opinion and the Denied Settlement

Kenneth Crews – Google Books: Copyright Settlement Rejected
Jonathan Band – A Guide for the Perplexed Part IV: The Rejection of the Google Books Settlement
Robert Darnton – Six Reasons Google Books Failed
Daniel Gervais – The Google Book Settlement and International Intellectual Property Law
James Grimmelman – Inside Judge Chin’s Opinion

Ariel Katz – Copyright Dogma and the Denied Google Books Settlement

Joe Mullin – What the Collapse of the Google Books Deal Really Means

Ryan Singel – Singel-Minded: To the Whingers Go the Spoils in the Google Books Decision

Private Settlements and Ongoing Litigation

In the aftermath of the denied settlement, the publishers reached a private settlement with Google in October 2012, in which only the participating parties are bound to the terms.  The Authors Guild’s lawsuit is still outstanding, as is a lawsuit brought by photographers’ groups in 2010.

Articles and Opinions on Private Settlements and Ongoing Litigation

The Chronicle of Higher Education – Publishers Settle Long-Running Lawsuit Over Google’s Book-Scanning Project
USA Today – Google, Publishers Settle Book-Scanning Dispute

Peter Hirtle – AAP and Google Books Settle

Bloomberg Businessweek – Google Reaches Digital-Book Deal With Publishers Group
Kenneth Crews – The Future of Google Books: Infringement, Fair Use, and New Possibilities – Essay published in Revy from the Danish Research Library Association

For More Information

The Public Index – a forum for study and discussion about the settlement

Open Book Alliance – a collection of news and information from a group, which includes Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo, that opposes the settlement

Google Book Search Bibliography – a selection of articles and other works that are helpful in understanding Google Book Search

Supplemental Agreement with University of Michigan – for more information on Google’s agreement with the University of Michigan

Most Recent Revision: 041613


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Some observations on Authors’ Guild suit vs. HathiTrust- The University of Iowa Libraries
09.13.11 at 11:03 am

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