In a somewhat surprising move, Google has reached a settlement with book publishers in the very long running Google Books case. An earlier settlement was rejected by the court, but this new one is directly between the two sides and doesn't have to be approved by the judge.
But the settlement is only between publishers and Google, authors are left out. In fact, the Author's Guild, which along with several book publishers sued Google back in 2005, is continuing the original lawsuit
after the earlier settlement crumbled.
"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," a joint statement said.
"Those deciding not to remove their works will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use," it added.
This is actually a loss for Google as it won't be able to continue to scan as it pleases under the fair use defense. In fact, Google is now at the mercy of publishers.
But the Google of 2012 is not the Google of 2005, for better and for worse. It's not ready to fight for things like fair use, but it has the money to pay publishers to have their books scans and included in the project.
But that was never the big issue, the problem was always orphan books and the new settlement doesn't do anything to solve it.
What's more, the lawsuit with the Authors Guild continues and is far from a resolution. That alone blocks the orphan book issue.
What it means is that the Google Books project is essentially neutered. Google can continue to scan books, but only ones publishers allow it too.
"Google is a company that puts innovation front and center with all that it does," David Drummond, SVP of corporate development and chief legal officer at Google, said.
"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," he added.