Ten years ago - UK trade welcomes Google agreement

Opinion - Publishing Friday, 09 November 2018

As BookBrunch celebrates its 10th birthday, we recall stories from our first autumn

The Publishers Association and the Society of Authors have welcomed what is being described as "a ground-breaking agreement" reached in New York yesterday in the cases of the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) v Google. The agreement, under which Google is making payments totalling $125m, promises to expand online access to millions of in-copyright books and other written materials in the US from the collections of a number of libraries taking part in Google Book Search, while recognising the claims of rights holders. Mark Le Fanu, general secretary of the Society of Authors, told BookBrunch: "It's good news. We supported the Authors Guild and I have every confidence that they've done their best for authors.

"The decision recognises that authors and publishers must hav
e control... It's a compromise for Google but a major breakthrough for authors."

Bloomsbury's Richard Charkin, a former Publishers Association president who has been particularly vocal on the issue, also felt it was "good news for the book industry. Broadly, the agreement supports copyright. And there's nothing better than ceasing to pay lawyers."

At issue in the case was the intention of Google to scan in-copyright as well as out-of-copyright books from libraries, including the Bodleian, for its Google Books Library Project. Copyright holders who objected would have had to opt out. The Authors Guild described this approach as "massive copyright infringement", and sued. Five large members of the AAP - McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin, John Wiley, and Simon & Schuster - filed a separate suit.

The newly created independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry (BRR) will locate rights holders, collect and maintain accurate rights holder information, and provide a way for rights holders to request inclusion in or exclusion from the project.
- 28 October 2008

This was not the end of the matter. Following objections, the parties reached an amended agreement a year later; but this was rejected in March 2011 by circuit court judge Denny Chin. In November 2013, judge Chin dismissed the Authors' Guild lawsuit against Google. The Guild appealed, but lost this round too, and saw the case finally dismissed in October 2016.

Google Books has not yet had the cataclysmic effect that its founders dreamed of and its critics feared. Instead, according to Wired, it "has settled into a quiet middle age of sourcing quotes and serving up snippets of text from the 25 million-plus tomes in its database".

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