Monday, October 03, 2005

COPYRIGHT: Google halts book-scanning project until November amid publisher protests (fwd)

Updated: 3:46 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO - Stung by a publishing industry backlash, Google Inc. has halted
its efforts to scan copyrighted books from some of the nation's largest
university libraries so the material can be indexed in its leading Internet
search engine.

The company announced the suspension, effective until November, in a notice
posted on its Web site just before midnight Thursday by Adam Smith, the manager
of its ambitious program to convert millions of books into a digital format.

"We think most publishers and authors will choose to participate in the
publisher program in order (to) introduce their work to countless readers
around the world," Smith wrote. "But we know that not everyone agrees, and we
want to do our best to respect their views too."

Google wants publishers to notify the company which copyrighted books they
don't want scanned, effectively requiring the industry to opt out of the
program instead of opting in.

That approach rankled the Association of American Publishers.

"Google's announcement does nothing to relieve the publishing industry's
concerns," Patricia Schroeder, the trade group's president, said in a statement
Friday. "Google's procedure shifts the responsibility for preventing
infringement to the copyright owner rather than the user, turning every
principle of copyright law on its ear."

Google wants to scan copyright-protected books from three major libraries .
Harvard, Michigan and Stanford.

The company also is scanning books stored at the New York Public Library and
Oxford University, but those two libraries so far are providing Google only
with "public domain" works .material no longer protected by copyrights.

Google hasn't disclosed how many books it has scanned since it first announced
the program eight months ago. The company expects to be scanning books for at
least five years . and probably much longer if it can persuade other libraries
around the world to participate.

The project troubles publishers because they fear making digital versions of
copyrighted books available on the Internet could open the door to unauthorized
duplication and distribution, similar to the rampant online pirating that has
decimated the sales in the music industry.

Publishers are also upset that Google might be able to generate more
advertising revenue by offering an index of copyrighted books and so far hasn't
offered to pay any royalties for its potential financial gains. Mountain View,
Calif.-based Google ranks among the Internet's most profitable companies,
having earned $712 million on revenue of $2.6 billion during the first half of
this year.

Google executives have positioned the scanning project as a largely altruistic
endeavor that will make it easier for people around the world to read the
valuable . and often rare . material stockpiled in libraries. The company
hasn't disclosed how much the project will cost, but it's expected to require a
substantial investment.

The attacks on Google's handling of copyrighted material extend beyond books.

One of Google's most popular features . a section that compiles news stories
posted on thousands of Web sites . also has triggered claims of copyright
infringement. Agence France-Presse, a French news agency, is suing for damages
of at least $17.5 million, alleging "Google News" is illegally capitalizing on
its copyrighted material.

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