The Authors Guild, the AAP, and several large publishers have reached a $125 million settlement with Google regarding library participation in Google’s Book Search project. The settlement will allow Google to continue to expand its ambitious program of digitizing millions of books and making them searchable online, while preserving the rights of copyright holders.
From an email I received today:
The Guild had sued Google in September 2005, after Google struck deals with major university libraries to scan and copy millions of books in their collections. Many of these were older books in the public domain, but millions of others were still under copyright protection. Nick Taylor, then the president of the Guild, saw Google’s scanning as “a plain and brazen violation of copyright law.” Google countered that its digitizing of these books represented a “fair use” of the material.
Our proposal to Google back in May 2006 was simple: while we don’t approve of your unauthorized scanning of our books and displaying snippets for profit, if you’re willing to do something far more ambitious and useful, and you’re willing to cut authors in for their fair share, then it would be our pleasure to work with you.
We’re happy to report that our proposal found a receptive audience at Google and at Association of American Publishers and the several publishing houses that had filed a separate lawsuit in October 2005 against Google. Reaching final agreement turned out to be not so simple, but today, after nearly two and a half years of negotiations, we’re joining with Google and the AAP and those publishers to announce the settlement of Authors Guild v. Google.
The settlement, which must be approved by a federal judge before it takes effect, includes money for now and the prospect of money for later. There’ll be at least $45 million for authors and publishers whose in-copyright books and other copyrighted texts have been scanned without permission. If your book was scanned and you own all the rights, you’ll get a small share of this, at least $60, depending on how many rightsholders file claims.
Far more interesting for most of us –- and the ambitious part of our proposal — is the prospect for future revenues. Rightsholders will receive a share of revenues from institutional subscriptions to the collection of books made available through Google Book Search under the settlement, as well as from sales of online consumer access to the books. They will also be paid for printouts at public libraries, as well as for other uses.
Payments will flow through a new entity called the Book Rights Registry, controlled by a board of writers and publishers. The settlement must be approved by the US District Court before it becomes final.