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Google Print Has Legal Support

Written by Jason Lee Miller for WebProNews

Though copyright law predates the Internet, case law has been established regarding the indexing of copyrighted material, and it has come out in favor of the indexer. Publishers who have issues with Google’s Print for Libraries project may end up with little more than hurt feelings.

Late in 2004, Google made a surprise announcement about an incredibly ambitious project to digitize and index millions of published works, with the aid of Stanford University, the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Oxford University, and the New York Public Library. The project was/is expected to cost upwards of $200 million over at least 10 years.

The entire text of books considered to be public domain and out of copyright will be scanned and made available online. For copyrighted material, the books will be scanned, and snippets will be made available structured around search terms with links to where the book can be checked out or purchased.

The publishing community, who had already signed up for Google Print for Publishers where snippets of copyrighted material were indexed for preview purposes, felt somewhat betrayed by Google as the Library project appeared to be sneaked in along side the Publisher program.

Two major publishers, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), sent letters to Google asking them to stop the project as digitizing entire works of literature was a fundamental violation of copyright and would, in their opinion, hurt publishers and writers financially.

“…News of Google Print for Libraries came as a complete surprise. It had not been mentioned by Google representatives during any of the discussions they were having with our members, and Google’s subsequent explanations of Google Print for Libraries have only increased that confusion and transformed it into mounting alarm and concern at a plan that appears to involve systematic infringement of copyright on a massive scale,” read a letter written by Peter Givler on behalf of AAUP.

Technically that’s correct, Google has not received explicit permission or paid to reproduce the material. Instead, the search engine has gone through the 5 selected libraries which have given permission to digitize all or some of their collections. Though Google paused the project in August to negotiate with publishers, scanning is slated to continue this autumn with publishers having the option to de-list themselves from the project.

Google, as well as critics of the publisher groups, has argued that the Library project will only help to increase exposure and book sales. Publishers say that is yet to be seen, that no one has the right to copy entire texts without permission, that the implications of allowing Google to do so would pave the way for others to do the same, that they’re not convinced the system is secure, and that privacy issues (involving cookies and the Patriot Act) remain unresolved.

But all of these objections from publishers may yield little in court because of case law and Fair Use guidelines.

As this copyright analysis from Jonathan Band goes to great lengths to explain, ArribaSoft v. Kelly is one precedent ruling Google’s legal team could use in its favor. In this case, image search engine ArribaSoft was cleared of accusations brought about in a lawsuit by a photographer who claimed indexing his copyrighted images was a violation of copyright law. The ruling that ArribaSoft was protected under four separate provisions of Fair Use was upheld in two separate courts.

Here are some of the key rulings in that case:

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.


Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at or phone on 01392 349580