The Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Google have reached a settlement agreement over the long-running row over Google's book digitisation programme, bringing an end to the litigation but leaving other parties out in the cold to pursue their own settlements separately.
It is the second such settlement, and resolves a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Google in October 2005 by five AAP member publishers. Unlike the original Google Book Settlement this deal does not need a court to ratify it. And unlike the first settlement agreement there is no indication that Google has agreed to pay out compensation. "Further terms of the agreement are confidential", the two parties said.
According to a press statement, the settlement "acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright-holders". US publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitised by Google for its Library Project. Those deciding not to remove their works will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use.
Under the agreement, books scanned by Google in the Library Project can now be included by publishers within Google Books, which allows users to browse up to 20% of books and then purchase digital versions through Google Play. Apart from the settlement, US publishers can continue to make individual agreements with Google for use of their other digitally-scanned works.
The deal means Google could now legitimately make commercially available millions of titles original scanned in without prior approval of the copyright holder. But it also ends a dead-lock over these titles, which occurred when the original settlement agreement was thrown out by a US court.
"Google is a company that puts innovation front and center with all that it does," said David Drummond, senior vice-president, corporate development and chief legal oifficer, Google. "By putting this litigation with the publishers behind us, we can stay focused on our core mission and work to increase the number of books available to educate, excite and entertain our users via Google Play." Tom Allen, president and chief executive of AAP, said: "We are pleased that this settlement addresses the issues that led to the litigation. It shows that digital services can provide innovative means to discover content while still respecting the rights of copyright-holders."
However, the result means those other parties that had rights over books scanned in by Google, including authors, international publishers, and so-called 'orphan works', will have to pursue agreements separately. Google resolved a similar dispute with French publishers earlier this year.
This settlement does not affect the litigation between Google and the Authors Guild or otherwise address the underlying questions in that suit. The US Authors Guild claims that Google has scanned 12m books illegally, the majority of which were protected by copyright. Books from all over the world were copied, but US works predominate. The Guild is claiming not less than $750 and not more than $30,000 per work.
Paul Aiken, executive director, at the Authors Guild said: "The publishers' private settlement, whatever its terms, does not resolve the authors' copyright infringement claims against Google. Google continues to profit from its use of millions of copyright-protected books without regard to authors' rights, and our class-action lawsuit on behalf of US authors continues."