Settlement FAQ

[pulled off of Stanford site, last updated Oct 2008]

Google Book Search Settlement

On October 28, 2008 Google, The Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) announced a settlement agreement regarding Google Book Search.

What role did Stanford and other libraries play in the settlement?

Chief librarians and university attorneys from Stanford, the Universities of California, and the University of Michigan worked together to provide input into the settlement by advocating for libraries' interests and ensuring maximum public access both to works in copyright and in the public domain. Other U.S. libraries in the Google Book Search project also advocated for public benefits during negotiations of the proposed settlement. Libraries' significant efforts to preserve, maintain, and provide access to books have played a critical role in achieving this agreement. The universities were not parties to the litigation; the Author's Guild and several publishers brought separate lawsuits against Google and, if approved, the proposed settlement will resolve all outstanding litigation.

If approved, what will the settlement achieve in terms of the public and academic good?

Public and academic good that will be realized out of the settlement will include:

  • Free full text access at public libraries around the country.
  • Free preview and ability to either find the book at a local library or through a consumer purchase.
  • A first-ever database of both in-copyright and out-of-copyright (public domain) works on which scholars can conduct advanced research (known as the "the research corpus"). For example, a corpus of this sort will allow scholars in the field of comparative linguistics to conduct specialized large scale analysis of language, looking for trends over time and expanding our understanding of language and culture.
  • Enabling the sharing of public domain works among scholars, students and institutions. Not only will scholars and students at other universities be able to read these online, but this will make it possible to provide large numbers of texts to individuals wishing to perform research.
  • Institutional subscriptions providing access to in-copyright, out-of-print books.
  • Working copies of partner libraries' contributed works for searching and web services complementary to Google's.
  • Accommodated services for persons with print disabilities - making it possible for persons with print disabilities to view or have text read with the use of reader technology.
  • Digital copies of works digitized by Google provided to the partner libraries for long term preservation purposes. This is important because, as university libraries, we are tasked by the public to be repositories of human knowledge and information.

What does this mean for the libraries' participation in the Google Book Search project going forward?

A number of U.S. libraries that currently work with Google hope to continue to participate by making most of their collections available for this project pending the successful outcome of negotiations between each library and Google. Through their anticipated participation, the libraries are furthering their efforts to preserve, maintain and provide access to books. It is expected that additional libraries in the U.S. will participate in this project in the future.

Why do the libraries support this settlement agreement?

On balance, we believe the agreement is consistent with the libraries' missions and serves the public interest by providing the widest possible access to these materials. The agreement offers libraries the opportunity to do the following:

  • Provide greater public access to materials by making millions of works that it preserved and maintained over time freely available online at all public libraries.
  • Provide better research opportunities for college students through fee-based institutional licenses - essentially college students will have access to a "library on a laptop."
  • Make it easier for users to find materials online through keyword searches on the full text of millions of books.
  • Protect their holdings against a devastating loss in the event of a catastrophe such Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of volumes at the Tulane University library. This agreement will ensure digital surrogates for print materials.
  • Make available to all readers with access to the Google search service, albeit for a fee, electronic copies of the full texts of many in-copyright works provided by libraries for digitization by Google.

Is this proposed settlement agreement better than litigating these cases to a final court decision?

In our view, this settlement provides more opportunities for the public than could have been achieved through the litigation. When it joined Google Book Search in 2004, Stanford was of the view and continues to be of the view that full-text copying of print materials for the purpose of making them fully searchable in a digital format is a fair use. But fair use only goes so far as to return a search result with a "snippet" - a few lines around the search term. Full text access to millions of in-copyright works was unthinkable under the fair use interpretation upon which we relied in joining the Google Book Search program in 2004. In our view, full-text access to millions of in-copyright works is preferred to snippet view of all in-copyright works.

How does this impact libraries' participation in other digitization efforts?

The agreement is non-exclusive, allowing the libraries to engage in digitization efforts on their own or to partner with others who share their vision of advancing learning and research through lawful projects to digitize materials.

« Back