Google and the Association of American Publishers just announced a settlement agreement for a 7-year-old litigation that will further provide access to copyrighted content digitized by Google for its Library Project.

Google started to scan and digitize library books in 2002 for its Book Search service founded in 2004 that allows users to download public domain books and snippets of copyrighted books. The Association of American Publishers filed a lawsuit against Google in 2005 for copyright infringement over the unauthorized snippets.

The Association sought an injunctive relief, but Google maintained the scanned book snippets were fair use. Both parties reportedly began negotiations to settle in 2006. However, in 2011, a supervising judge ruled to reject a major settlement proposal between them. Any news about close talks has since been quiet until today’s announcement about a finalized agreement.

The finalized agreement effectively ends the 2005 copyright infringement lawsuit; and the settlement is between the parties, so the court does not have to approve terms. The publisher plaintiffs include McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin Group, John Wiley & Sons, and Simon & Schuster. Although the companies’ statement does not reveal whether Google infringed, they said the settlement “acknowledged the rights and interests of copyright-holders.”

Users can currently skim up to 20 percent of books in Google Books, but then they must purchase digital versions through Google Play to continue reading. Publishers can now include books scanned by Google in the Library Project, according to the new agreement, but U.S. publishers could choose to remove their content digitized by Google.

Additional terms to their agreement are confidential, but it is important to note that today’s announcement does not affect Google’s similar 8-year-old litigation with the Authors Guild.

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More information is available in the press release below.

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Publishers and Google Reach Agreement

Mountain View, CA and Washington, DC; October 4, 2012 – The Association of American Publishers (AAP) and Google today announced a settlement agreement that will provide access to publishers’ in-copyright books and journals digitized by Google for its Google Library Project. The dismissal of the lawsuit will end seven years of litigation.

The agreement settles a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Google on October 19, 2005 by five AAP member publishers. As the settlement is between the parties to the litigation, the court is not required to approve its terms.

The settlement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright-holders. US publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project. Those deciding not to remove their works will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use.

Apart from the settlement, US publishers can continue to make individual agreements with Google for use of their other digitally-scanned works.

“We are pleased that this settlement addresses the issues that led to the litigation,” said Tom Allen, President and CEO, AAP. “It shows that digital services can provide innovative means to discover content while still respecting the rights of copyright-holders.”

“Google is a company that puts innovation front and center with all that it does,” said David Drummond, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and Chief Legal Officer, Google. “By putting this litigation with the publishers behind us, we can stay focused on our core mission and work to increase the number of books available to educate, excite and entertain our users via Google Play.”

Google Books allows users to browse up to 20% of books and then purchase digital versions through Google Play. Under the agreement, books scanned by Google in the Library Project can now be included by publishers.

Further terms of the agreement are confidential.

This settlement does not affect Google’s current litigation with the Authors Guild or otherwise address the underlying questions in that suit.

The publisher plaintiffs are The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.; Pearson Education, Inc. and Penguin Group (USA) Inc., both part of Pearson; John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; and Simon & Schuster, Inc. part of CBS Corporation.

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