November 3, 2008

Google Settles Book-Scanning Lawsuits

According to an October 28 article in The New York Times – by Miguel Helft and Motoko Rich Google and book publishers have agreed to a settlement in two copyright lawsuits brought by the publishers against the company.

In the settlement, Google will pay publishers and authors $125 million. In exchange, the company will resume scanning copyrighted, out-of-print books, and provide up to 20 percent of the text on-line at no charge, under its Google Book Search program.

In addition, the settlement creates a method for how Google, publishers and authors will share the profits of digitized versions of printed books. The company will take 37 percent of the revenue, leaving 63 percent for publishers and authors.

The Times quotes James Gleick, the author of five books and a member of the board of the Authors Guild, one of the plaintiffs in the suit: “This huge body of books that were effectively lost to the marketplace are being rescued.”

This is a good thing. In the end, more material will be available to more people, more easily.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, however, not everyone agrees.

In her article, Harvard Says No Thanks to Google Deal for Scanning In-Copyright Works, Jennifer Howard writes:
"Harvard University has examined Google’s recent legal settlement with publishers and authors, and found it wanting…

Harvard’s concerns center on access to the scanned texts — how widely available access would be and how much it might cost. “As we understand it, the settlement contains too many potential limitations on access to and use of the books by members of the higher-education community and by patrons of public libraries,” Harvard’s university-library director, Robert C. Darnton, wrote in a letter to the library staff...

In a statement, Harvard said it would re-evaluate its position as the settlement moves forward."

What do you think?

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