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Google, Inc. is digitally scanning the collections of several prominent libraries in order to create a vast searchable database of literary works. Copyright holders who have not authorized and object to the digitization have filed suit against the company. This report provides background on the pending litigation. It will be updated as judicial developments warrant.
Complaints for copyright infringement were recently filed against Google, Inc. by a variety of authors and representatives of the book publishing industry. (1) The complaints specifically challenge Google's "Print Library" project, recently renamed "Google Book Search," an effort by Google in conjunction with several library partners to scan books into a digital format so that they may be searched textually. Although the case is in its very early stages, the issues presented have captured national attention. Once again, new technology and traditional principles of copyright law appear to be in conflict. Because of the unique facts and issues presented, there is scant legal precedent to legitimize Google's claim that its project is protected by copyright law's fair use exception to liability for infringement. (2) Thus, questions presented may be ones of first impression for the courts.
Google's Book Search Project. In December of 2004, Google announced a partnership with several major libraries to make digital copies of their collections and permit the text of the literature to be searched online by the Google search engine. (3) Google is providing its partnering libraries with a digital copy of the donor institution's collection.
The Print Library Project is only one of several initiatives by the company to enhance the breadth of its online search capabilities. It was originally a component of "Google Book Search," which included the Library Project and its "Partner Program," an online book marketing program designed to help publishers and authors promote their books by displaying a limited number of sample pages in connection with a user's word search. The Library Project was described on its website:
When you click on a search result for a book from the Library Project, you'll see the Snippet View which, like a card catalog, shows you information about the book plus a few snippets--a few sentences of your search term in context. You may …