Opposition To Google Library Project Intensifies

Google Inc.'s book-copying library project has come under fire by two more publishers' groups, with one raising the possibility of legal action.

August 29, 2005

3 Min Read
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Google Inc.'s book-copying library project has come under fire by two more publishers' groups, with one raising the possibility of legal action.

The Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers and the Association of American University Presses have joined the Association of American Publishers in denouncing Google's copying of books without first seeking permission from the copyright holder.

Google, based in Mountain View, Calif., said this month that it would suspend until November scanning copyrighted books into its database, unless it has prior permission from the publisher or other copyright holder. At the end of the suspension, Google will resume copying books, unless it receives from publishers a list of specific titles they do not want in the search engine's database.

Google, however, has failed to satisfy the concerns of publishers. Google believes it's legal to copy the books, but publishers disagree. Their opposition comes in spite of Google's contention that its is copying the books to eventually provide in search results links to retailers where the material can be purchased.

"We firmly believe that, in cases where the works digitized are still in copyright, the law does not permit making a complete digital copy for such purposes," Sally Morris, chief executive of the ALPSP, based in England, said in a statement released this month.The organizations also object to having the burden placed on them to opt out of the Google project.

"Google, an enormously successful company, claims a sweeping right to appropriate the property of others for its own commercial use, unless it is told, case by case and instance by instance, not to," the AAUP board said in a statement. "In our view this contradicts both law and common sense."

The ALPSP was the first of the three groups to indicate publicly that it was ready to go to court.

"We call on Google to hold an urgent meeting with representatives of all major publishing organizations, in order to work out an acceptable pragmatic way forward and to avoid legal action," Morris said.

Google was not immediately available Monday for comment. But the company has said that copying library books, part of its mission to digitize as much of the world's information as possible and make instantly available to people, benefits everyone."This program will help users discover more books, publishers sell more books and authors to ultimately write more books," Adam Smith, product manager for Google Print, said this month in an interview with TechWeb.

Smith also said Google believe its actions are "allowed under fair use and is consistent with all the principles underlying copyright law itself." Book publishers, however, argue that fair use under the law only applies to using portions of books for educational or non-commercial activities.

Google announced its library project in December, starting with collections in Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, the University of Oxford and The New York Public Library. Besides expanding its network of search advertising, the project could someday put Google into direct competition with giant Internet retailer Amazon.com, experts say.

Book publishers are not the only ones rankled over Google's handling of copyrighted material. Adult magazine publisher Perfect 10 Inc. is asking a federal court in Los Angeles to prevent Google from displaying pictures and links to the company's copyrighted photos.

Perfect 10, whose namesake magazine competes with other soft porn publications, such as Playboy, sued Google in November 2004 in U.S. District Court for showing thumbnails of its photos in search results. The company also objects to Google linking to Web sites showing Perfect 10's photos without permission.The Beverly Hills, Calif., magazine publisher has asked the court to hear its request for a preliminary injunction Nov. 7.

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