The Case for Regulating
Google and the Proposed
Book Rights Registry
n October 28, 2008, after several years of legal wrangling, Google,
the Association of American Publishers, and the Authors Guild
a settlement agreement concerning Google’s scanning of
copyrighted works. The scanning of these works has been performed in
cooperation with research libraries throughout the United States. The
settlement agreement requires court approval by the presiding judge in the US
District Court in New York because the case was brought there as a class action
suit on behalf of selected copyright owners.
In large part, the settlement focuses on in-copyright books that are not
commercially available. Public-domain works fall outside of the settlement and
owners of commercially available, in-copyright books created prior to January 5,
2009, may opt-out of the settlement or opt-in to other terms with Google. As a
part of the settlement agreement, Google will fund the establishment of the
Book Rights Registry. The registry, jointly run by authors and publishers, will
collect and distribute royalties including an up-front payment by Google of
$45 million. Users will have several new opportunities to access scanned
books, both free and fee-based, via public and university libraries and through
institutional subscriptions for academic, corporate, and government libraries
and organizations.
Although this is a private settlement, the result has very real implications
for public policy and the way libraries of all types will operate. Many
librarians have raised questions about the settlement’s impact because of the
complexity of the agreement, its potential long-term impact on libraries (thus
user interests), and the enormity of the book collection involved. Members of
the library community discussed the implications of the settlement in a
meeting hosted on February 9, 2009, in Washington DC by ARL, the American
Library Association (ALA) Washington Office, and the Association of College
& Research Libraries (ACRL). The meeting led to identification of the key
concerns of the library community with the proposed settlement and a
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