Google Book Scanning: All Your Text Are Belong to Us

Is book scanning legal
A French copyright lawsuit against Google involving their book scanning project has been dropped.

Social Media & Search Giant, Google, Escapes Unscathed In French Book Scanning Lawsuit

Oft-praised for their mantra, “Do No Evil,” Google has long billed itself as a kinder, gentler corporate giant. But time reveals all hypocrisies, and these days you’ll find a lot more people who believe the search-turned-social-media behemoth’s actual mantra is “do as I say, not as I do” — especially in France.

Despite public contention, however, Le Syndicat National de l’Edition and the SGDL Society of Authors have agreed to end litigation over Google’s scanning of copyright-protected books without permission.  While this may appear to be good news, it brings up some very interesting questions about the rights of content creators in an increasingly “share-friendly” world.

Google’s Epic Book Scanning Plan

A while ago, Google began a global project that would bring “free knowledge” to the masses. The plan was to create digital copies of the world’s literary works.

As word of their book scanning initiative spread, people began to question the legality of scanning copyrighted books – and snippets of text — available online. Google maintained, however, that they were helping society as a whole and didn’t stop.

In fact, since they began the project, Google has developed several new useful scanning methods. As time went on, Google continued to scan — and make available — more and more material. Before long, several publishing companies, in France, came forward and began legal proceedings against Google for theft of copyrighted content.

International and Domestic Legalities of Book-Scanning and Digitization

According to Bill Echikson, a spokesman for Google, the search engine company is no longer facing legal action in France over scanning books.  In fact, they have been working to improve their relationship with various French industry groups and regulators, with regards to copyrighted content. Google has also settled legal disputes with Hachette Livre unit of Lagardere SCA and La Martiniere Groupe.

“We’ve agreed on a model to get out-of-print books back into print,” Echikson recently said in a telephone interviewwithNJ.com.

Google’s project to scan as many books as possible has birthed many a copyright infringement lawsuit. On the bright side, the legal battle has sparked dialog between Google and publishers – which, hopefully, will only lead to clearer distinctions as to the nature of Google’s project and what they are doing to protect creators’ copyrights.

How will this affect US publishers? Quite a few are asking this question, but the answer is still unclear.

Just this year, Google lost a bid to dismiss claims brought forward by groups including the Author’s Guild and the American Society of Media Photographers. The lawsuits came about in 2004, after Google announced their plan to digitally scan books from public and university libraries. According to a court filing from February of this year, Google averred they had scanned more than 20 million books so far, with more to come.

If you create content online or in print, make sure you have a clear understanding of intellectual property law in the Unites States. After all, who wants the likes of Google – or other companies – lifting others’ content to pad their already fat wallets?

Bottom line: the more you know about IP law, the better decisions you can make when it comes to protecting your content.

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