As reported on Slashdot, Google and the Authors Guild have settled their litigation over Google Books nee Print’s unauthorized scanning of copyrighted books.

This appears to be a classic case of a compromise that benefits all sides. If it is approved by the courts, Google will pay $125 million in legal fees, settlement of claims by scanned authors, and to establish a “Book Rights Registry” that will keep track of known rightsholders and work on locating unknown ones.

This could lead to more than just snippets of books being available. One of the press releases breaks it down so:

If approved by the court, the agreement would provide:

  • MORE ACCESS TO OUT-OF-PRINT BOOKS — Generating greater exposure for millions of in-copyright works, including hard-to-find out-of-print books, by enabling readers in the U.S. to search these works and preview them online;
  • ADDITIONAL WAYS TO PURCHASE COPYRIGHTED BOOKS — Building off publishers’ and authors’ current efforts and further expanding the electronic market for copyrighted books in the U.S., by offering users the ability to purchase online access to many in-copyright books;
  • INSTITUTIONAL SUBSCRIPTIONS TO MILLIONS OF BOOKS ONLINE — Offering a means for U.S. colleges, universities and other organizations to obtain subscriptions for online access to collections from some of the world’s most renowned libraries;
  • FREE ACCESS FROM U.S. LIBRARIES — Providing free, full-text, online viewing of millions of out-of-print books at designated computers in U.S. public and university libraries; and
  • COMPENSATION TO AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS AND CONTROL OVER ACCESS TO THEIR WORKS — Distributing payments earned from online access provided by Google and, prospectively, from similar programs that may be established by other providers, through a newly created independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry that will also locate rightsholders, collect and maintain accurate rightsholder information, and provide a way for rightsholders to request inclusion in or exclusion from the project.

In addition to the limited preview available now, Google Books users will be able to purchase the right to view books on-line in their entirety, or will be able to use designated computers at local libraries to view entire books on-line for free. Institutions will be able to purchase subscriptions that permit entire-book viewing as well.

The Universities of California, Michigan, and Stanford see great promise in the settlement for cultural and academic benefits, providing new ways to conduct advanced research and share public domain works.

Could this settlement potentially launch e-books into a new era? It is probably too early to say. But it will certainly be a sea change in the way books may be viewed on-line.

Prior TeleRead coverage of the Authors Guild litigation may be found here.


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