Proposed $125 Million Google Settlement Agreement

bigstockphoto_Books_83906The goal of Google Book Search was to digitalize 15 million books by partnering with several large libraries including the New York Public Library and the University of California, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Stanford libraries.

The Authors Guild, Inc., et al. v. Google Inc., Case No. 05 CV 8136 (S.D.N.Y.) is a class action lawsuit brought by authors and publishers against Google Inc., claiming that Google violated their copyrights by scanning their books, creating an electronic database, and displaying short excerpts without the permission of the copyright holders. Google denied the claims.

The parties reached a proposed settlement agreement of $125 million that includes compensating authors and publishers whose books are still under copyright.

Under the agreement, Google will have a framework for the future in which Google will pay authors and publishers based on books sales and advertising revenue. According to Google the settlement agreement will, inter alia, help define how users access different categories of books:

1. In-copyright and in-print books

In-print books are books that publishers are still actively selling, the ones you see at most bookstores. This agreement expands the online marketplace for in-print books by letting authors and publishers turn on the “preview” and “purchase” models that make their titles more easily available through Book Search.

2. In-copyright but out-of-print books

Out-of-print books aren’t actively being published or sold, so the only way to procure one is to track it down in a library or used bookstore. When this agreement is approved, every out-of-print book that we digitize will become available online for preview and purchase, unless its author or publisher chooses to “turn off” that title. We believe it will be a tremendous boon to the publishing industry to enable authors and publishers to earn money from volumes they might have thought were gone forever from the marketplace.

3. Out-of-copyright books

This agreement doesn’t affect how we display out-of-copyright books; we will continue to allow Book Search users to read, download and print these titles, just as we do today.

In response to the proposed settlement agreement, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York received over 400 submissions including objections to the proposed settlement, statements in support of the proposed settlement, and briefs from amici curiae, all of which were uploaded to the Court’s electronic filing system. Due to the large public interest in the case and the volume of submissions, the Court issued an Order on September 16, 2009 regarding procedures for the Fairness Hearing to be held on October 7, 2009. The Department of Justice has opened an antitrust investigation and may present its views by September 18, 2009.

– Katie Cooper

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