Google has agreed to pay $125m to settle a three-year-old class action lawsuit that accused the ad broker of infringing publisher and author copyrights with its library-digitizing Book Search project.
After Google launched the project in 2004, several major libraries allowed the company to scan their collections and serve them to the web at large, including the New York Public Library and the Harvard University library. But in 2005, the ad broker was sued for copyright infringement by the Author's Guild and five members of the Association of American Publishers.
With its $125m settlement - still subject to approval by the court - Google will establish a "Book Rights Registry," a means of resolving copyright claims from authors and publishers - and leveling three years of legal fees. US copyright holders who sign up with the Registry can receive a cut from Google's future Book Search profits. And if your works have already been digitized, you can land an immediate cash payment.
Alternatively, copyright holders can use the Registry as a means of telling Google to leave their books alone.
Yes, ads will juice future Book Search profits. But as part of the settlement, Google has also agreed to offer works for sale via the online service - at least in the US - and "most" dollars generated by these sales will be passed back to publishers and authors.
What's more, Google will offer free, full-text viewing of out-of-print books from computers inside US public and university libraries. And if they like, libraries and other institutions can purchase subscriptions providing access to big-name collections across the globe.
"It’s hard work writing a book, and even harder work getting paid for it," read a canned statement from Roy Blount Jr., president of the Authors Guild. "As a reader and researcher, I’ll be delighted to stop by my local library to browse the stacks of some of the world’s great libraries. As an author, well, we appreciate payment when people use our work. This deal makes good sense.”
This was seconded by the co-chairs of Arts and Labs, a brand new lobby group that unites traditional adversaries from the worlds of media and tech, trumpeting the notion that "quality content drives the Internet."
"This settlement shows that creators’ rights and consumer benefit can go hand-in-hand in the Internet age," said co-chairs Mike McCurry and Mark McKinnon. "It is a victory for consumers and creators alike.
"The agreement demonstrates that collaboration between the technology community and the creative community can give consumers access to a wealth of resources while also preserving copyright owners right to control how their work is distributed online and to earn fair compensation for their creativity."
If you think some of Google's $125m is yours, you can learn more about the settlement here. ®