The Write Stuff: Google Reaches Preliminary Settlement Over BookSearch


"This historic settlement is a win for everyone," said Richard Sarnoff, chairman of the Association of American Publishers. "From our perspective, the agreement creates an innovative framework for the use of copyrighted material in a rapidly digitizing world, serves readers by enabling broader access to a huge trove of hard-to-find books, and benefits the publishing community by establishing an attractive commercial model that offers both control and choice to the rightsholder."

BookSearch is a project helmed by Google that scans entire books online, allowing interested parties to read and search an entire published work.

The original complaint was first filed by the Authors Guild in September 2005. In October of the same year, five major publishing houses— McGraw-Hill Companies; Pearson Education and Penguin Group (USA), both part of Pearson; John Wiley and Sons; and Simon and Schuster, part of CBS, filed a second lawsuit against Google. All five are members of the Association of American Publishers.

According to a statement released by the Authors Guild, both lawsuits challenged Google's plan to "digitize, search and show snippets" of copyrighted books and to share digital copies without the explicit permission of the copyright owner.

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According to court documents, Google entered contracts with the University of Michigan to digitize the books without consulting with the Authors Guild or the Association of American Publishers, which is what incited the litigation.

After three years of litigation, Google and the Authors Guild and the association have reached the preliminary settlement, with Google paying $125 million. The money will be used to establish the Book Rights Registry, which will resolve existing claims by authors and publishers and cover legal fees.

In addition to the pecuniary compensation, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers agreed to work with Google to expand their BookSearch project since the settlement will acknowledge the rights and interests of copyright holders, provide a means for the copyright holder to control how his or her work is accessed online. and provide compensation for online access.

"It's hard work writing a book, and even harder work getting paid for it," said Roy Blount Jr., president of the Authors Guild. "As a reader and researcher, I'll be delighted to stop by my local library to browse the stacks of some of the world's great libraries. As an author, well, we appreciate payment when people use our work. This deal makes good sense."

BookSearch, post-settlement, will be adding several functionalities as laid out in the agreement between the parties. The announced features are:

"Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," said Sergey Brin, co-founder and president of technology at Google. "Today, together with the authors, publishers and libraries, we have been able to make a great leap in this endeavor. While this agreement is a real win-win for all of us, the real victors are all the readers. The tremendous wealth of knowledge that lies within the books of the world will now be at their fingertips."

Also Tuesday, the University of California, University of Michigan and Stanford University said they expect to participate in Google's BookSearch.