Google's Book Scanning Project Turns Sour

Dennis Faas's picture

Google's ambitious book scanning project has the company embroiled in yet another lawsuit -- this time, from a number of literary organizations.

Currently, the Google project returns snippets of content contained in books after a search is run on the Google search engine. Those who are interested in reading the entire book have the option of purchasing it or obtaining it through a library. (Source:

Google's project presently includes titles from seven libraries including the libraries of Harvard University and Stanford University. Google says that anyone who does not want their content copied online can opt out of the book scanning project. (Source:

The organizations that filed the lawsuit, which include McGraw-Hill and the American Authors Guild, argue that Google's project raises the risk of unauthorized use and denies copyright owners their royalty fees. Google denies any wrongdoing, claiming that because they only show snippets of material, they are not violating any copyright laws. (Source:

Microsoft and Yahoo are presently involved in a similar book scanning project known as the Open Content Alliance. The primary difference between the Open Content Alliance and Google's model is that the former obtains permission from copyright holders before making content available online. (Source:

Consequently, the Open Content Alliance is supported by the American Authors Guild -- one of the plaintiffs in the Google lawsuit. (Source:

The Association of American Publishers (the organization coordinating the suit against Google) stated that they are not opposed to a project wherein Google obtains prior permission from publishers. Judith Platt, the association's spokesperson, affirmed this position. "We are not objecting to the very lofty goal of the library project. What we object to is what we see is a shoddy business model." (Source:

This type of lawsuit has not been the first for Google. The company has come under attack recently for similar copyright related issues, continuing the digital age's tug-of-war between accessibility and ownership.

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