Google, U.S. Publishers Settle Lawsuit Over Book-Scanning

Google Logo NEW - H 2012

Google Logo NEW - H 2012

Google and the Association of American Publishers have agreed to end a seven-year stand-off over Google's efforts to digitize books.

Representing such publishers as John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill Companies, the Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster, the publishing group sued in 2005, alleging that the book-scanning constituted massive copyright theft.  The parties previously reached a $125 million settlement before it was rejected by a judge last year. The latest agreement requires no court blessing because it doesn't go beyond the parties involved in the litigation.

According to a joint press release, as part of the settlement, "U.S. publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project. Those deciding not to remove their works will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use."

The settlement appears to be closer to Google's long-standing position that publishers should have to "opt-out" rather than what publishers originally asserted, that Google's Library Project should be an "opt-in" program.

Since the original lawsuit, Google has tried to address publisher concerns. For instance, only about 20 percent of books are available for consumption online. Full texts are only available for purchase.

“We are pleased that this settlement addresses the issues that led to the litigation,” said Tom Allen, president and CEO of AAP. “It shows that digital services can provide innovative means to discover content while still respecting the rights of copyright-holders.”

“By putting this litigation with the publishers behind us, we can stay focused on our core mission and work to increase the number of books available to educate, excite and entertain our users via Google Play," said David Drummond, chief legal officer at Google.

The settlement, and any financial considerations given to publishers, doesn't end litigation over Google's books digitization.

Authors are continuing to fight Google.

After a federal district judge certified a class action, Google appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which has recently granted a stay in the case to consider whether the authors have proper standing. If the case proceeds, Google is expected to argue it had "fair use" to copyrights.

"Google continues to profit from its use of millions of copyright-protected books without regard to authors’ rights, and our class-action lawsuit on behalf of U.S. authors continues," said the Authors Guild in a statement today.

Email:; Twitter: @eriqgardner