Author: Matt Kellogg
Google recently reached a settlement agreement with the authors and publishers who in 2005 sued the company for copyright infringement. As part of the arrangement, copyright owners will not only receive fees from Google for the use of digitized copies of their books in Google Book Search, they will also have the ability to choose how much—if any—of their works they wish to be displayed. The settlement provides for the creation of an independent organization to oversee its administration as well as special modes of access for public and university libraries.
As announced in late 2008, Google reached a proposed agreement that would resolve the class-action lawsuit filed against the company in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and a handful of other authors and publishers. The plaintiffs claimed that Google's Book Search program, which digitizes the text of books from major libraries around the world, infringed on author copyrights; Google responded that this digitization was protected as a fair use. Pending court approval, the settlement will allow the two sides "to avoid the cost and risk of a trial" while leaving the central legal question undecided.
The works covered by the settlement fall into two main categories: "books" and "inserts." "Books" are defined as written or printed works distributed under U.S. copyright that are not periodicals, personal papers, sheet music, public domain works, or governmental works. "Inserts" include forewords, afterwords, poems, letters, textual excerpts, musical notation, and tables, charts, and graphs.
Google Book Search displays information from digitized books in four formats, or "display uses": (1) "display of bibliographical pages," which include the title page, copyright page, table of contents, and index; (2) "snippet displays," which include the three or four lines of text surrounding a search term, with a limit of three snippet views per user per book; (3) "preview uses," which allow a user to view up to 20% of a book but not print, copy and paste, or annotate; and (4) "access uses," which provide viewing, printing, copying and pasting, and annotating for purchase by individuals, individual subscription, and library public access.
Google may use a digitized book in one of several ways, depending on that book's publication status and the rightsholder's preferences. If a book is currently in print and protected by copyright law, Google may not use it without consent from the rightsholder. If a book is currently out of print but still under copyright, Google will automatically include it in all display uses (as explained above), though the rightsholder may request that the book be excluded from any or all of these uses. Rightsholders may also exclude inserts from all—but not fewer than all—display uses. Books in the public domain will continue to be fully available and free of charge.
As compensation, rightsholders will receive 63% of the revenues earned from Google Book Search. These payments will include at least $45 million for books digitized by Google through May 5, 2009, at the rate of at least $60 per book, $15 per insert, and $5 per partial insert. (Rightsholders will receive only one payment per book or insert, regardless of how many editions in which it might appear. In the case of a collection like "The Best American Short Stories," the entire collection is considered the "book" and each story an "insert.") In exchange, participants forfeit the right to sue Google and participating libraries.
Google will also pay $34.5 to establish the Book Rights Registry, a not-for-profit organization founded to collect rightsholder information, manage their copyright interests, and collect and distribute revenues. The Registry's board will include at least four directors from the "Authors" sub-class of the lawsuit and four from the "Publishers" sub-class.
Participating libraries that allow Google to digitize their books will receive a digital copy of each book in return. The libraries may use these copies for a variety of purposes, such as providing access to readers with disabilities and replacing missing or damaged books. In addition, public and university libraries will each be eligible for "Public Access Service" licenses, which will provide on-site terminal access to all of Google Book Search's out-of-print and public-domain books.
Finally, through the creation of a "Research Corpus," Google will makes its complete digital collection available for the study of image and linguistic analysis, automated translation, and other disciplines concerned with "extracting information to understand or develop relationships among or within Books."
According to the official settlement website, the terms of the agreement apply to every owner of a U.S. copyright as of January 5, 2009, including both U.S. and non-U.S. rightsholders. Members of the lawsuit class are also free to (a) opt out of the settlement or (b) register objections to certain aspects of the settlement. The court will consider these objections prior to approval or rejection of the agreement.
Before finalizing the agreement, the court will hold a fairness hearing on June 11, 2009. Class members must give notice of their intent to raise an objection at the hearing. For more information about the settlement, visit www.googlebooksettlement.com.