Google informs on their website of the proposed Settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by authors and publishers, claiming that Google has violated their copyrights and those of other Rightsholders of Books and Inserts (click for definitions), by scanning their Books, creating an electronic database and displaying short excerpts without the permission of the copyright holders. Google denies the claims.
However, critics say the pact would hand the search giant a monopoly over online books sales.
Google's original plan to digitise millions of books worldwide first ran into trouble in 2004 when the Authors Guild of America and the Association of American Publishers sued over "massive copyright infringement".
December last year, a Paris court found Google guilty of infringement for exposing fragments of the scanned books online. Google doesn't allow users to actually access or view the entire books, rather it enables them to search the contents and displays short excerpts of the portion of the text containing the query. Still, the French publisher demanded that it be paid for the content and, in the original claim La Martiniere, the French Publishers' Association and authors' group SGDL, the parties who filed the lawsuit, asked for damages of €15 million for the crime. The judge found in the plaintiff's favor, but the damages issued fell way short of the demands: a €300,000 fine. However, on top of the initial fine, Google will also have to pay an additional €10,000 for every day it stores the scanned books from now on.
Google is facing a preliminary anti-monopoly probe by the European Commission into its dominant position in online browsing and digital advertising. Google revealed at Wednesday that the commission has sent out formal questionnaires seeking information about complaints from three firms – the British price comparison site Foundem, a French legal search engine called eJustice and a shopping site, Ciao, which is owned by Microsoft.
In the process of creating a worldwide library, Google Books, the library access might turn out less global than many are hoping for. Users could see their access to digitalised books limited by their geographical location. Geographic limitations on user access would allow Google to pay heed to copyright issues that can vary from country to country. The technology may also be used to control access to certain books that are illegal in specific countries.
Relevant articles / sources:
- Google Fined €300,000 in France over Google Books by Lucian Parfeni, Web News Editor
in Google News [18th of December 2009]
- Google Books: a not-so-worldwide library by Peter Teffer in NRC International [17th February 2010]
- Google faces anti-monopoly probe by European Commission by Andrew Clark in The Guardian [24 February 2010]
- How Anti-Competitive Is Google? by Stefan Schultz in Spiegel Online International [25th February 2010]
Books and articles in Peace Palace Library catalogue: