The search-engine giant Google has agreed to pay $125 million in an out-of-court settlement of suits brought by the Association of American Publishers and the Authors Guild, the parties announced today. The suits charged Google with copyright infringement for its library search program, which scanned books in libraries that were under copyright. The agreement includes a new licensing arrangement. It will have to be approved by a federal court before it can take effect.
A key element of the deal is a Book Rights Registry, which will handle payments to authors whose copyrighted works are scanned and made available by Google. It will also offer a way for readers to view online, for a price, copyrighted books. It will also allow free access to copyrighted works through certain in-library computers.
In a letter on the Authors Guild site, president Roy Blount Jr. writes that the settlement "includes money for now and the prospect of money for later. There’ll be at least $45 million for authors and publishers whose in-copyright books and other copyrighted texts have been scanned without permission. If your book was scanned and you own all the rights, you’ll get a small share of this, at least $60, depending on how many rightsholders file claims."
Negotiations have been going on for two years. The suits were filed after several university libraries agreed to make their collections available through Google's library search program. It may truly be a landmark deal, in that a giant in the world of Internet access is agreeing that the creators and owners of content have some rights that need to be respected, even online.