US authors throw copyright book at Google's global library bid

As Reuters reports, writers in the US are blocking Google's bid to create an online global library. The Authors Guild and several prominent US authors have launched a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York seeking damages and an injunction for copyright infringement. They claim that Google's copying of extracts from their (and other) works and posting these on the web infringes their rights as authors. Google has teamed up with leading libraries to compile its resource and says it has where possible sought permission from copyright owners. The service does not reproduce entire works but merely provides extracts from them in the manner pictured below.

The company says that the aim of its service is not to make money by infringing copyright, rather it seeks to create an online resource with examples of what is available. If anything, this would provide publicity for the authors.

In copyright terms and to establish infringement, there has to be substantial taking. Whether Google's service does amount to infringement of the actual works remains to be decided but the writers may have some mileage in their claim that they have been deprived of the right to control their work.

This is not the first time Google's attempts at organising the world's information and making it accessible to all have run into difficulty. When Google launched its news aggregating service Google News, several news and information providers complained about the linking and in some cases limited reproduction of their content without consent. The claims came and went but the service survived.

Is Google trying to take over the world or merely stick to the ethos of the web and make information freely available to all? It all comes down to what's 'free' in this context. If Google is making or plans to make large amounts of money by providing links to and extracts from other people's work then there may be an argument and copyright case for making them pay. If the company is being altruistic then copyright holders should show some latitude when it comes to their contribution to knowledge.

Full report from Reuters
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