The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has filed suit against Google over the search company's Google Print Library Project, the organization announced Wednesday. The project, which involves scanning library books without seeking copyright holders' permission, has proved controversial with publishers. This is the second suit to be filed against Google by a U.S. body representing writers and publishers.
"We didn't see another option," Pat Schroeder, AAP president, said in a phone interview Wednesday. "No one wants to sue a two-ton gorilla. I wish we didn't have to do it."
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York on behalf of five AAP members -- The McGraw-Hill Companies, Pearson Education, Penguin Group (USA), Simon & Schuster, and John Wiley & Sons. The suit seeks a declaration by the court that Google commits infringement when it scans entire books covered by copyright and a court order to prevent the company from doing so without the permission of the copyright owner.
The Authors Guild and three individual writers filed a lawsuit against Google in September charging the company with copyright infringement.
Google announced in August that it would temporarily stop the scanning of in-copyright library books until Nov. 1 to give publishers an opportunity to let the company know which of their books they did and didn't want scanned.
The company plans to restart the scanning of in-copyright books on Nov. 1, according to Alexander Macgillivray, Google senior product and intellectual property counsel.
Google's aim for Print is to make searchable the full text of as many of the world's books as possible with the library portion of the project involving the scanning of books from five facilities -- the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, The New York Public Library, and Oxford University. The arrangement with each library differs, with Michigan offering the entirety of its library, while both the New York Public Library and Oxford University are only making public domain library books available to Google for scanning, according to Macgillivray.
Google Print is creating a "searchable card catalog of books" which falls within fair use under copyright law, Macgillivray said in a phone interview Wednesday. He drew the analogy between Google Print and writers who pen book reviews: both include quotations from books. "Book reviewers don't have to ask permission [from publishers]," he said, adding that the five publishers suing Google in the AAP lawsuit are trying to "bully Google into getting [their] permission anyway," which the company doesn't need to obtain under copyright law. "This shortsighted 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," he said.
Google began the project in October 2004 with its Google Print Publisher Program when the company went to each publisher and asked them which books they wanted digitized and which they didn't subject to an agreement or license. The controversy began with the launch in December 2004 of the Google Print Library Project when the company began scanning books from the libraries without seeking the copyright holders' permission.
While users will be able to view the full text of books in the public domain, Google has continually stated that users will only have access to a few sentences of copyright books.