The eight-year-long legal battle over Google Books has finally come to a close. A judge ruled on Thursday that the search giant's scanning of millions of books falls under fair use and doesn't infringe the copyrights of the books' authors. The ruling (.PDF), issued by U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in New York, ends the legal scuffle among the publishing trade group The Authors Guild, several individual authors and Google, as first reported by GigaOM. Google began scanning books in 2004 with the goal of publishing snippets in search results.
Google’s deal to settle a seven-year conflict with five major publishers over the search giant’s book-scanning initiative is a milestone in the publishing industry’s grinding transition from print books to e-books. The pact, struck by Google and the Association of American Publishers (AAP), does not address the underlying question of whether Google violated copyright law by scanning millions of books over the last several years. Both sides, apparently weary of legal wrangling, have agreed to disagree on that point. The deal also doesn’t affect an ongoing lawsuit filed against Google by the Authors Guild, which represents thousands of authors.
Five large publishers have made a separate peace with Google over the inclusion of their books in Google Books, announcing a settlement that resolves the seven-year-old litigation with the search giant.
Google had been fighting a two-front war over its Google Books program. In addition to its dispute with the publishers, it is also defending a lawsuit by the Author's Guild, which is seeking to head a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the nation's authors.
“The Orphan Wars” appears in the new issue of EDUCAUSE Review. It was written by Professor James Grimmelmann, New York Law School. “Orphan books”—books that are in copyright but whose copyright owners can’t be found—have been in the news lately, thanks to lawsuits over Google’s plan to scan a copy of every book ever published. [...]
The preliminary settlement agreement between the Association of American Publishers, the Authors Guild and Google regarding Google’s Book Search project and its alleged copyright violation has been heralded by the parties involved as a victory. Other publishers and industry analysts also have voiced optimism over the settlement’s impact on the industry. But as the date of the final settlement review (the Fairness Hearing) approaches (June 11), many still are investigating the agreement’s details. Others have voiced concern and suggest the settlement demands some significant changes.