Google, the Authors Guild, and the Association of American Publishers announced a tentative settlement yesterday in the class action lawsuit over Google's efforts to create a search engine for books. It's a long settlement and there is plenty to read through and analyze. But on first blush, it appears that there is a lot to be enthusiastic about from a public-interest standpoint.
The public will get broader online access to books, including not just search capability, but also more substantial excerpts to browse and the option to purchase full text. Libraries and universities will be able to offer full text electronic access to patrons and students. And book authors and publishers should enjoy new revenue opportunities in connection with new ways for readers to find and access their work. A new entity called the Book Rights Registry will collect and distribute the revenues. A great deal of this is not possible today, and would not have been possible even if Google had litigated this case to the end and won an outright victory. Of course, forestalling an actual legal decision also means that the fair use questions at the heart of the lawsuits won't get resolved. Details regarding the settlement can be found at the author's guild Web site and that of Google Book Search.
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