Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lawsuit Charges Google with Copyright Infringement

After a number of complaints and petitions, according to Publishers Weekly, the Google Print for Libraries project came under serious fire yesterday, with the filing of a lawsuit by the Authors Guild, alleging that the company's library scanning project constitutes "massive copyright infringement." Suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by the Guild plus three authors, Herbert Mitgang, Betty Miles and Daniel Hoffman. PW reported:
The Guild is seeking to make the lawsuit a class action... "A class action opens up possibilities that other authors will join in," says Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken.

The suit states that Google knew or "should have known" that the Copyright Act requires it to obtain permission from the holders of copyrights, even for older materials or library acquisitions.

The Google Print for Libraries project seeks to digitally scan and make available for search the content of millions of books housed in major university libraries, including Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and Michigan. The New York Public Library has also been a participant. Somewhere in the neighborhood of tens of thousands of books have already been scanned, including works still under copyright protection—that's the principal stated reason for the Guild's action. It claims that in striking its deals with libraries, Google never asked for copy permission from individual authors.

Google has defended its library scanning project by saying it falls within the fair use provision of the copyright law. In a statement, Google noted that "copyrighted books are indexed to create an electronic card catalog and only small portions of the books are shown unless the content owner gives permission to show more."

Writer, blogger and Guild member Motley Fool Tim Beyers writes about receiving the plea from the Author's Guild to join the class action:
As a member of the Guild and a writer, I'm completely in favor of defending the intellectual property rights of my fellow members. Yet I also depend on the richness of Google so much that I hate to see anything impede the process of digitizing useful texts.

There's unlikely to be a clear winner in this...

Herbert Mitgang is a former New York Times editorial writer; Betty Miles is a noted children's author; and Daniel Hoffman is a former Poet Laureate of the United States.

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