The Google Books Settlement: A Private Contract in the Absence of Adequate Copyright Law

Jenna Newman


Internet search giant Google Inc. began digitizing library collections in 2004, confident that scanning and indexing books to display excerpts based on users’ search queries were fair uses under U.S. copyright law. Authors and publishers disagreed, and in 2005 representatives filed class action copyright infringement complaints. Rather than litigate, the parties negotiated a settlement that would not only allow Google’s original uses but license Google to use, and sell online, millions of books published before January 5, 2009. This report uses the experience of Canadian scholarly publisher the University of British Columbia Press to illuminate the November 13, 2009, proposed amended settlement agreement’s technical details, and it examines the settlement’s economic and cultural costs and benefits and its implications for digital publishing, public access, and copyright law in a rapidly developing digital market. Whatever this settlement’s outcome, its proposal underlines the need for meaningful, legislative copyright reform capable of encompassing present technological realities.


Google Books; Google settlement; copyright reform; UBC Press; Library Project; Partner Program; orphan works

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