Publishers throw book at Google, again
By Eric Auchard
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Five major publishers filed suit
against Google Inc. in Manhattan’s federal court on Wednesday
seeking to block plans to scan copyrighted works without
The complaint lodged in the U.S. District Court for the
Southern District of New York against Google names as
plaintiffs McGraw-Hill Cos. Inc., Pearson Plc’s Pearson
Education and Penguin Group (USA) units, Viacom Inc.’s Simon &
Schuster and John Wiley & Sons Inc.
The suit seeks a declaration that the Web search leader
commits infringement when it scans entire books covered by
copyright without permission of the copyright owner.
Legal experts say the spat between Google and the
publishing industry is shaping up as a new front in the battle
over digital duplication of media, including music, movies and
At issue are the rights of copyright holders versus the
public’s “fair use” interest in being free to use limited
portions of these materials for commentary or review, analysts
A spokeswoman for the Association of American Publishers
said the suit was filed after lengthy discussions broke down
last week over the alleged copyright infringement implications
of Google’s Print Library Project.
“Creating an easy-to-use index of books is fair use under
copyright law and supports the purpose of copyright: to
increase the awareness and sales of books, directly benefiting
copyright holders,” David Drummond, Google’s general counsel,
said in a statement.
“This short-sighted attempt to block Google Print works
counter to the interests of not just the world’s readers, but
also the world’s authors and publishers,” Drummond said.
The Authors Guild and writers Herbert Mitgang, Betty Miles
and Daniel Hoffman filed a separate suit against Google making
similar charges in September.
The Authors Guild suit is a class action suit that seeks
damages from Google. The newly filed publishers suit seeks a
declaratory judgment that Google is committing copyright
infringement by scanning books, said Patricia Schroeder,
president of the Association of American Publishers.
In August, Google, which is working with five of the
world’s great libraries to digitize their book collections,
temporarily stopped scanning copyrighted books in the face of a
growing outcry by publishers. The libraries have continued to
scan public domain works, which are not covered by copyright.
The Google library project plans to resume scanning
copyrighted works as well starting in November. The copyrighted
books being scanned by libraries are for use in what amounts to
a digital card catalog, Google and its backers argue.
Supporters of the Google Print project say the scanning of
the full text of the books is necessary to create a searchable
catalog of the books located within the five libraries’
collections. Google says it has no plans to make full copies of
copyrighted works available without their owners’ permission.
Google operates a parallel program with major academic,
technical and trade publishers to allow readers to search the
text of copyrighted books on publisher-controlled Web pages
that show several pages of adjoining text and feature links to
publisher and other retail outlets for purchasing the books.
All five of the publishers named as plaintiffs in the
latest lawsuit have participated in Google’s publisher program,
according to the company.
(Additional reporting by Kenneth Li in New York)