American Publishers and Google Settle Legal Fight

The 7-year court battle between The Association of American Publishers (AAP) who represented the following publishing companies (McGraw-Hill; Pearson Education and Penguin Group; John Wiley & Sons; Simon and Schuster) and Google, Inc. over the company’s book scanning project reached a settlement on October 4, 2012, which allowed AAP’s content to remain available online. The main settlement component gives American publishers that have books scanned by the Google Library Project to choose the “opt-out“option instead of “out-in” that was insisted upon when they filed suit in 2005.  “[Publishers] invested a ton of time and money fighting something that they realize now really isn’t a problem. And it didn’t preclude the development of a robust e-book market,” said Jonathan Band, library consultant for the Office for Information Technology Policy of American Library Association.  In addition, the publishers will receive a digital copy of all content used in the Library Project, have “broad” rights to commercialize the digital copy or make available in other search engines, and allows an individual publisher to negotiate contracts directly with Google for their use of digitally scanned books and journals.  Whereas for users of Google Books via Google Play, they can browse 20 percent of a book for free without purchasing it. The financial terms were not disclosed for this agreement. "Google is a company that puts innovation front and center with all that it does," said David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer. "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,” according to the PC Magazine article that outlines the case history for this issue.


On the other hand, as for the authors of the scanned materials, the Authors Guild, continue their legal battle realizing that the publishers were focused on reaching terms with Google. Therefore the settlement announced on October 4, 2012, does not affect the authors’ case. As for the authors, the main issue is copyright-infringement claims against Google. "The publishers' private settlement, whatever its terms, does not resolve the authors' copyright-infringement claims against Google,” said Paul Aiken, the guild's executive director in a written statement. “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,” according to The Chronicle of Higher Education article.  Previously in March 2011, a federal district judge in Manhattan rejected a $125 million settlement between AAP and Google because it was unfair to authors. In this proposed settlement, authors or copyright owners had to opt-out or be automatically included in Google’s digital library.


Currently, the book-publishing industry continues to struggle through a painful transition. And, it is a perplexing time for authors with shrinking publishing houses who have been the main financial avenue in the past for writers. Meanwhile, with Amazon and other e-reader and tablet platforms (like the IPad and Samsung) beckon with promises of probable earnings in self-publishing that bypass traditional publishing gate-keeping and distribution.   Susanne L Woodford, Freelance Writer