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Google Print - Let the legal battle begin: September / October 2005


September 2005

The Authors Guild, which represents 8,000 authors in the United States, has filed a class-action copyright infringement lawsuit [PDF] against Google in the Southern District of New York because of its Google Print program that makes books and other offline information searchable online. Google has contracted with several public and university libraries to create digital archives of the libraries' collections of books. The suit alleges that by reproducing a copy of these works that are not in the public domain, Google is engaging in massive copyright infringement. “This is a plain and brazen violation of copyright law,” said Authors Guild President Nick Taylor. “It’s not up to Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of these copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied.”

In a first reaction, Google regrets "that this group chose to sue us over a program that will make millions of books more discoverable to the world -- especially since any copyright holder can exclude their books from the program." Google also did point out, that its programm "doesn’t show even a single page to users who find copyrighted books through this program (unless the copyright holder gives us permission to show more). At most we show only a brief snippet of text where their search term appears, along with basic bibliographic information and several links to online booksellers and libraries." 

  • September 21, 2005: Orlowski, Andrew, Authors sue Google, The Register:
    "The Authors Guild, along with a former US poet laureate, is suing Google for copyright infringement."

  • September 21, 2005: Google wegen "massiver Copyright-Verletzungen" verklagt, Heise:
    "Die Autorenvereinigung Authors Guild und einige einzelne Autoren haben gegen Google eine Sammelklage eingereicht."

  • September 20, 2005: Mills, Elinor, Authors Guild sues Google over library project, CNet:
    "The Authors Guild on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against search engine Google, alleging that its scanning and digitizing of library books constitutes a "massive" copyright infringement."


Also see: Band, Jonathan, The Google Print Library Project: A Copyright Analysis



  • Lavoie/Connaway, Dempsey, Anatomy of Aggregate Collections - The Example of Google Print for Libraries, D-Lib Magazine September 2005, Volume 11 Number 9

    This article offers some perspectives on GPLP in light of what is known about library print book collections in general, and those of the Google 5 in particular, from information in OCLC's WorldCat bibliographic database and holdings file. Questions addressed include:

    • Coverage: What proportion of the system-wide print book collection will GPLP potentially cover? What is the degree of holdings overlap across the print book collections of the five participating libraries?
    • Language: What is the distribution of languages associated with the print books held by the GPLP libraries? Which languages are predominant?
    • Copyright: What proportion of the GPLP libraries' print book holdings are out of copyright?
    • Works: How many distinct works are represented in the holdings of the GPLP libraries? How does a focus on works impact coverage and holdings overlap?
    • Convergence: What are the effects on coverage of using a different set of five libraries? What are the effects of adding the holdings of additional libraries to those of the GPLP libraries, and how do these effects vary by library type?


October 2005

Five publishing houses - McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education and Penguin Group (USA), Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons - file a suit in New York against Google Print. Under the program, Google plans to scan and index millions of copyrighted books taken from the collections of the three universities Harvard, Stanford and Michigan. The suit seeks a declaration that Google infringes on the publishers' copyrights when the Web search leader scans entire books without permission of copyright owners (The Copyright Act squarely puts the burden on Google to obtain permission to copy the books, and not on the publisher to tell Google which particular titels ought not to be copied). Google claims, that the scanning of the full text of the books is necessary to create a searchable catalogue of the books located within the libraries' collections. Only snippets of copyrighted works will be available through the search engine. There are no plans to make full copies of copyrighted works available without their owners' permission.

In September, the Authors Guild joined with three US writers - Herbert Mitgang, Betty Miles and Daniel Hoffman - to file a similar lawsuit. The Authors Guild filing was a class-action lawsuit that seeks damages, the publishers' suit seeks a declaration that Google is committing copyright infringement by scanning books.


  • October 20, 2005: Sherriff, Lucy, Publishers join forces to sue Google, The Register:
    "The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is suing Google over its plans to make scans of millions of books available online."

  • October 19, 2005: Italie, Hillel, Publishers Sue Google Over Scanning Plans, ABC News:
    "Just weeks after a leading authors' organization sued Google for copyright infringement, the Association of American Publishers has also filed suit against the search engine giant's plans to scan and index books for the Internet."


Also see:

  • Author Meghann Marco: "Kinda sucks for me, because not that many people know about my book and this might help them find out about it. I fail to see what the harm is in Google indexing a book and helping people find it. Anyone can read my book for free by going to the library anyway." .... "I'm a book author. My publisher is suing Google Print and that bothers me. I'd asked for my book to be included, because gosh it's so hard to get people to read a book."


  • A letter from the National Consumer League (NCL) calls for congressional hearings on the matter: "In a letter to the chairmen of the House and Senate Judiciary subcommittees overseeing intellectual property issues, the nation's oldest consumer advocacy group raised concerns about a forthcoming ambitious effort to catalogue the entire collections of four major American libraries. The letter, signed by National Consumers League President Linda Golodner, acknowledges the tremendous potential value in Google Inc.'s bold vision for the new initiative, in which the complete collection of works at the university libraries of Stanford, Michigan, and Harvard, and of the New York Public Library, would be scanned and made available electronically to the public. The Washington-based advocacy group warned, however, that the project, which will resume scanning on November 1, 2005 poses dramatic threats to the principle of copyrights; fairness to authors; and cultural selectivity, exclusion, and censorship...We do not doubt Google's good intentions," wrote Golodner. "But any database which represents itself as being a 'full' or 'complete' record of American culture as reflected in the collections of four major research libraries must, in fact, be complete."
    Click to see copy of the letters:

  • Honorable Lamar S. Smith, Chairman, Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property

  • Senator Orrin Hatch, Chairman, Subcommittee on Intellectual Property


  • Native Google Print language sites are launched in France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain.



Google Print / Google Book Search

Google Print: December 2003 - August 2004

Google Print - Let the legal battle begin: September / October 2005

Google Book Search - November 2005 - 2006

Google Book Search - January 2007 -

Google Book Search - Articles

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