Michael Perry is a graduate from the School of Information at University of Michigan specializing in the field of Information Policy.
Google Books was first introduced in late 2003. The project’s goal was to scan books and make them available to online searches. Users would be able to search for specific terms in the books. Google partnered with major universities, including the University of Michigan and Harvard University, and the New York Public Library to build its digital library database.
In 2005, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) filed separate lawsuits claiming copyright infringement. The complaint centered on the scanning of the books. Google was making a digital copy of a book without permission from the author/owner of the copyright. However, Google defended the scanning practice as fair use. It argued that in order to make searches possible, it was necessary to scan the entire book. Google stated that the user never had access to the entire digital scan. Only a few lines of text were displayed to the user. In October 2008, a settlement between the parties was announced. Under the agreement, a Book Rights Registry would be created to represent the interests of the copyright holders (known as the Rightsholders). Because it scanned books without permission, Google agreed to pay the Rightsholders $45 million. For books scanned after May 5, 2009, the parties would participate in a revenue-sharing venture, with 63% of the revenue going to the Rightsholders and 37% going to Google. The settlement, however, is still pending judicial approval.
Google’s Privacy Policies
This balancing act may not meet the legal standards that physical public libraries must meet. However, the profile of privacy with the Google Books service is much more visible today. Advocates for privacy have momentum on their side, especially as users become more aware of privacy policies with online services (one only has to look at the reaction by users to Facebook’s privacy stance). It remains to be seen what the final form of that policy will be. But there will be a privacy component to the Google Books settlement. And it will more closely resemble that of a library than that of a bookseller.
1 “ALA Reluctantly Accepts Google Book Deal, but Internet Archive Finds it Untenable.” Washington Internet Daily 22 apr 2009: n. pag.
2 “What the web knows about you”. Consumer Privacy November 29, 2009: 28.