How much has it cost Google (NSDQ: GOOG) to scan hundreds of thousands of books and make them available via its Google Book Search? At least $125 million. That’s how much the search giant has paid to settle a long-standing class action lawsuit with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (representing publishers like McGraw-Hill (NYSE: MHP) and the Penguin Group). The funds will be used to set up a Book Rights Registry that will let U.S. copyright holders register their works so that they can get a cut of any resulting online retail and ad sales. MarketWatch’s Therese Poletti wonders if the settlement lines Google up as a future Amazon.com competitor, or at least, a contractor — as Google’s scanned books could wind up as part of Kindle’s growing library.
Google has been scanning and uploading the books since 2005 with help from various U.S. libraries and universities — and even made moves to try to keep some of the content behind a pay wall in 2007, but the trade groups argued that the practice violated copyright protections. While the battle ensued, a number of similar book search tools emerged, including those developed by publishers like Random House and HarperCollins themselves. The company still has several other copyright disputes to resolve, including its ongoing one with YouTube and its intent to appeal two photography copyright suits in Germany.