Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Google Books loses one round of copyright lawsuit

Reports on the ongoing litigation over the Google Books project adds some interesting facts to Google's progress in digitizing all of the books in the world. An Associated Press account states that a U.S. Circuit Court Judge in Manhattan rejected a $125 million settlement between Google and the book industry that had drawn hundreds of objections from Google rivals. The story, which has gotten extensive coverage in the media, holds, indicates that New York Judge Denny Chin said the deal gave Google a significant competitive advantage and "would simply go too far" in giving it the power to "exploit" digitized copyrighted works by selling subscriptions to them online without permission. See WestLaw News & Insight. The decision was in the District Court, however, Judge Chin has since been moved to the Circuit Court.

Google was sued in 2005 by the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers for violating copyright laws. The case is The Authors Guild et al v. Google, Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 05-08136. A copy of the Court docket can be found at The opinion is 48 pages long and is not really a judgment in the case but a rejection of a settlement in the class action lawsuit referred to in the ruling as the Amended Settlement Agreement or "ASA." The Judge states:

While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far. It would permit this class action -- which was brought against defendant Google Inc. ("Google") to challenge its scanning of books and display of "snippets" for on-line searching - - to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.
The Ruling notes that since 2004, when Google entered into the ASA, it has scanned more than 12 million books. However, news reports indicate that Google has scanned more than 15 million books and those

The controversy pertains primarily to those books that are out-of-print but still under copyright. It has no effect on the millions of out-of-copyright books Google continues to scan. Neither does it apply to any books for which Google has obtained permission to scan. The ASA is a long and complex document. At 166 pages, it is open to criticism from competitors who essentially want a piece of the action. In part of his opinion, the Judge indicates that a solution to the problem is more suited to Congress than the Court. The Judge also expressed anti-trust concerns, privacy concerns, international law concerns and procedural concerns. The Judge specifically allowed the parties to negotiate a revised settlement agreement.

Resolution of this issue will affect only a small percentage of the total number of books available for scanning. Some of the news' estimates were less than 10%.
As genealogists we need to recognize that a search on the term "genealogy" in Google Books presently returns over a million results and any agreement ultimately reached will have some significant effect on the availability of additional online digitized books.

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