Faculty as Authors, Faculty as Researchers: What You Need to Know About the Google Book Search Settlement

Note: This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the Libraries’ most recent faculty newsletter. Google Book Search started in 2004 as a project to digitize and make available online millions of books held by a group of major university libraries. The plan was to digitize everything but only make fully available those books that were in the public domain, that is, no longer protected by copyright law. The books that were still under copyright would be presented in “snippets” – a few sentences displaying a user’s search terms in context, but the entire work would not be made available online. Copyright holders would also be given the option of granting permission for their work to be made freely available in its entirety, or for a limited preview (more extensive than the “snippet” view) to be made available online. In 2008, a group of authors and publishers initiated a class action lawsuit against Google, who they claim violated their copyrights by scanning and digitizing published works without permission. Google denied any wrongdoing, claiming that its actions are covered by the concept of “fair use” in U.S. copyright law; however, it decided to offer a settlement to the group of authors and publishers rather than having the suit go to trial. If you are the author of a book published in the United States (or a chapter in such a book) before January 5, 2009, you need to know how the Google Book Search Settlement affects you. First, determine whether you or your publisher holds the copyright to your book. If you hold the copyright and want to receive payment for the inclusion of your work in Google Book Search, or exclude your work entirely from Google Book Search, then you must “claim” your work or works at the Google Book Search Settlement administration website by June 5, 2010. If your publisher owns the copyright to your book, then the publisher gets to decide if it will be included in Google Book Search, and it will be entitled to the rights holder’s financial compensation. Some argue that the Google Book Search settlement, if approved, sets a dangerous precedent in its handling of what are called “orphan works” – books still in copyright and for which the rights holders cannot be identified or located. The Department of Justice submitted a “statement of concern” that Google would have the potential to monopolize the commercial market for these works. Google submitted a revision of the proposed settlement on November 13, 2009, which contained provisions for an independent trustee to represent the missing rights holders and removing some of the barriers to other companies licensing content digitized by Google. However, the fact remains that access to these works may change over time. This affects you as a researcher, as do the provisions of the settlement that limit full-text access and printing capabilities. Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – but in the case of Google Book Search, just how that will happen is still uncertain. Recommended Reading “About Google Books” http://www.google.com/googlebooks/about.html “Google Book Search” http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/companies/google_inc/google_book_search/index.html “Google Book Search and the Future of Books in Cyberspace” http://ssrn.com/abstract=1535067 “The Google Book Search Settlement: A New Orphan-Works Monopoly?” http://uchicagolaw.typepad.com/faculty/2009/04/the-google-book-search-settlement-a-new-orphanworks-monopoly.html “Google Book Settlement” http://www.googlebooksettlement.com/ “Google Books Settlement: Key Players Comment” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/11/23/google-books-settlement-k_n_361393.html “Will Your Book Be in Google?” http://www.arl.org/bm~doc/will-your-book-be-in-google-final.pdf