Association of American Publishers Sues Google over Library Digitization Plan

Well, it appears that Google will be heading to court, again, over their Google Library book digitization program.

According to this news release, one of the largest trade groups of publishers in the U.S., the The Association of American Publishers (AAP) that represents more than 300 members (here’s a list) including many commercial book publishers, is suing Google over the program.

Wow, that Google department is one busy organization.

From the News Release

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Google over its plans to digitally copy and distribute copyrighted works without permission of the copyright owners. The lawsuit was filed only after lengthy discussions broke down between AAP and Google’s top management regarding the copyright infringement implications of the Google Print Library Project.

The suit, which seeks a declaration by the court that Google commits infringement when it scans entire books covered by copyright and a court order preventing it from doing so without permission of the copyright owner, was filed on behalf of five major publisher members of AAP: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson Education, Penguin Group (USA), Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons.

The release also mentions that the AAP proposed a method using ISBN (International Standard Book Numbers) to help identify works under copyright (at least since 1967) and then get permission from publishers and authors to scan these works. According to the statement, “Google flatly rejected this reasonable proposal.”

As I tried to make clear yesterday, their is a clear difference between the Google Print program (where material comes directly from publishers) and the Google Library scanning program where Google plans to retrospectively scan every book in several major libraries BUT only shows snippets of content from a given book on a results page. My post from yesterday has several related links that might be of interest.

“The publishing industry is united behind this lawsuit against Google and united in the fight to defend their rights,” said AAP President and former Colorado Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder. “While authors and publishers know how useful Google’s search engine can be and think the Print Library could be an excellent resource, the bottom line is that under its current plan Google is seeking to make millions of dollars by freeloading on the talent and property of authors and publishers.”

This is the second time (that we know of) that Google has been taken to court over the library digitization program. A month ago we blogged that The Authors Guild had also filed suit against Google over the program.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that the AAP statement makes a mention of the new Yahoo/Internet Archive Open Content Alliance that was announced a few weeks ago.

Noting the existence of new online search initiatives that respect the rights of creators, such as the ?Open Content Alliance? involving Yahoo, Hewlett-Packard, Adobe and the Internet Archive, Mrs. Schroeder said: ?If Google can scan every book in the English language, surely they can utilize ISBNs. By rejecting the reasonable ISBN solution, Google left our members no choice but to file this suit.?

David Drummond, Google’s Vice President, Corporate Development and General Counsel, has just released this statement about today’s AAP announcemement:

“Google Print is an historic effort to make millions of books easier for people to find and buy. Creating an easy to use index of books is fair use under copyright law and supports the purpose of copyright: to increase the awareness and sales of books directly benefiting copyright holders. This short-sighted attempt to block Google Print works counter to the interests of not just the world’s readers, but also the world’s authors and publishers.”

Postscript from Danny:
It’s worth noting that the publishers aren’t upset wth the Google Print search service but instead what they call the “Google Print Library Project,” the program where Google is scanning books in cooperation with libraries. What’s the different, and why is the library program itself the issue?

Google Print shows content from books that many publishers themselves give Google permission to show. Publishers can choose exactly how much of a book they want to show, from only a few snippets of text, to a few pages to even the entire book, if they explicitly tell Google they want that to happen.

The library project is meant to help feed additional content into Google Print without publishers explicitly cooperating. Google has said only tiny snippets of material from any of this content would be shown. Yes, the full text it scanned and made searchable, but no pages from the books are shown. Still, the act of scanning the text in the first place is alarming enough to some publishers, who consider that a copyright violation. Whether it is is now something that the courts will decide.

Postscript from Gary: Interesting article about the lawsuit in The Book Standard that includes this snippet.

She [AAP President Pat Schroder] added that Google had indicated its willingness to delay the project for a year, an offer chief negotiators John Sargent, CEO of Holtzbrink, and Richard Sarnoff, president of New Media and Corporate Development at Random House, rejected. ?The terms that everybody worked so hard on were dismissed because Google could not swallow the basic issue about permissions,? she said.

Postscript 2: David Drummond, Vice President, Corporate Development
has posted more thoughts about the lawsuit and Google Print on the Google Blog.

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