The Brave New World of Google Print

March 2005
by Jonathan Kirsch

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Jonathan KirschJonathan Kirsch, a publishing attorney based in Los Angeles, is general counsel of the Independent Book Publishers Association and a recipient of its Benjamin Franklin Award for excellence in publishing.


Google is the world’s largest Internet search engine–but the Internet apparently does not contain enough content to satisfy its appetite. To provide ever-greater searchable databases for Google users, the so-called Google Print program will make available the entire collections of several vast libraries, including the New York Public Library and the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and the University of Michigan. Internet visionaries may be celebrating, but authors, publishers, and other copyright-owners are justifiably concerned about this quantum leap.

Google’s new Google Print program goes far beyond Amazon’s Look Inside the Book and Search Inside the Book features. Both Google and Amazon offer to enter into contracts with publishers for the right to scan and post the content of published books in a searchable form [see “Danger! Amazon’s Inside the Book Programs Pose Legal Risks for Publishers,” June 2004]. Now, however, Google is going directly to libraries, scanning all the books in their collections, and making the whole database available for searches.

Google is mindful of the fact that much of what is contained in the libraries is protected under copyright. “Google respects the rights of copyright holders and the tremendous creative efforts of authors,” according to its official announcement, “which is why we will only allow users to view the full texts of books that are in the public domain….IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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