Google Book Search Settlement: Introduction, Public Announcements

Announced today was a settlement between Google and the plaintiffs — the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and individual authors and publishers — in the class action lawsuit about materials scanned for the Google Book Search application through the Google Book Search Library Project. This posting on DLTJ includes a brief summary of the agreement and links to the primary source public announcements and documents. Subsequent postings to DLTJ will include analysis and commentary on the agreement.

Basic Terms of the Agreement


The agreement settles the claims filed in two lawsuits against Google for “for reproducing a digital copy of plaintiffs’ works without the copyright holders’ permission and in violation of the authors’ rights under the copyright laws” and that the Google Book Search Library Project “infringes on plaintiffs’ copyrights by copying copyright-protected works and allowing the public to search and access digital copies of plaintiffs’ works.”

The “Memorandum of Law” filed in support of a motion by the plaintiffs in the case summarizes the complaint and settlement agreement this way:

This class action lawsuit arises out of the decision by Defendant Google, Inc. (“Google”) to create digital copies of millions of copyrighted books and other works and make those digital copies available on its website (the “Google Library Project” or “GLP”). As its principal defense against the copyright infringement claims that have been brought against it based on this copying, Google asserted a fair use defense under 17 U.S.C. § 107, largely because it originally planned to offer the public only “snippets” (several lines of text) of access to those books and other works.

The parties now have reached an agreement that avoids a trial and appeals over the infringement claims and defenses asserted. [footnote omitted] The Settlement, once approved, would provide, among other things, the following material benefits to the Settlement Class:

  • At least $45 million to compensate Settlement Class members whose works have already been scanned without permission.
  • Another $34.5 million to establish and maintain a Registry of rights to books (the “Book Rights Registry” or “Registry”), which will locate Settlement Class members, maintain a database of their contact information, collect and pay revenues on behalf of the Settlement Class for the use of copyrighted works through this Settlement, and otherwise protect and represent the interests of the Settlement Class.
  • Prospectively, 63% of the revenues earned from Google’s future commercial uses of the Settlement Class members’ works.
  • In addition to these and other significant benefits, the proposed Settlement creates a rights clearance mechanism that lets members of the Settlement Class, at all times, retain control over their copyrighted works by giving them the ability to determine the extent to which those works are included or excluded from the Google Library Project.

As a result, the Settlement:

  • Creates an innovative marketing program for authors and publishers of in-print books that catapults the publishing industry into the digital age, a result that greatly benefits individual authors and publishing houses, which simply could not launch such a program on their own;
  • Addresses what has been a persistent problem, particularly for individual authors – how to breathe new life into older, out-of-print books that are generally inaccessible to the public and have stopped generating revenue;
  • Is designed to maximize Settlement Class member rights by allowing any of them, at any time, to commercially exploit their works in other ways outside of the Google Library Project; and
  • Benefits the Settlement Class, as well as the general public, through the ability to access books on Google’s website and, as a result of provisions addressing the extent to which libraries may also use digitized copies of these works, enjoy a new and unprecedented ability to use books and conduct research.

These benefits were reached only after two years of vigorous, hard fought, multi-party negotiations by experienced counsel on all sides. Each of the parties zealously protected their interests, including those of the authors and publishers as aligned against Google, those of the authors and publishers as they competed on some issues, and those of the libraries that, for the most part, are the source of the works Google is digitally copying and, as a result, also wanted their constituencies to benefit through the access for archival, research and other purposes specified in the Settlement Agreement.

As explained in more detail below [in the Memorandum of Law], the result is a settlement that, although complex in its structure, is elegantly simple in its result. It provides extraordinary and previously unattainable benefits to the authors, the book industry, and even the public. As a result, it falls well within the range of reasonableness necessary for the Court to grant preliminary approval.

There is much more to the agreement than this short description covers. The proposed Notice of Class Action Settlement is 39 pages and the full proposed Settlement Agreement is 141 pages plus another 162 pages of appendices. Future postings on the Disruptive Library Technology Jester blog will go into more detail and analysis.

Links to Primary Source Documents

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.publishers.org/main/Copyright/CopyKey/copyKey_01_03.htm to http://web.archive.org/web/20081204195717/http://publishers.org/main/Copyright/CopyKey/copyKey_01_03.htm on November 13th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://www.publishers.org/main/Copyright/Google/RSarnoff.htm to http://web.archive.org/web/20081201024917/http://www.publishers.org/main/Copyright/Google/RSarnoff.htm on November 13th, 2012.

The text was modified to update a link from http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/notice.html to http://web.archive.org/web/20081211213014/http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/notice.html on August 22nd, 2013.

The text was modified to update a link from http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/notice.html to http://web.archive.org/web/20081211213014/http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/notice.html on August 22nd, 2013.

The text was modified to update a link from http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/agreement-contents.html to http://web.archive.org/web/20081219194925/http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/agreement-contents.html on August 22nd, 2013.

The text was modified to update a link from http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/agreement-contents.html to http://web.archive.org/web/20081219194925/http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/agreement-contents.html on August 22nd, 2013.

The text was modified to update a link from http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/ to http://web.archive.org/web/20081219194925/http://books.google.com/booksrightsholders/ on August 22nd, 2013.

(This post was updated on 21-Aug-2013.)