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Google records show book scanning was aimed at Amazon

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Google (s goog) has so far spent more than $180 million on book scanning and, at the outset of the project, one of its stated goals was to keep web searchers away from Amazon (s amzn).

These are among the details set out in a new court filing by the Authors Guild, which is locked in a long-running case over the search giant’s decision to digitize libraries.

The filing points to internal Google documents in an attempt to show that the scanning was an overtly commercial project, and that the scanning was not a fair use as Google is claiming.

In a 2003 internal Google presentation described in the filing, the company stated “[we want web searchers interested in book content to come to Google not Amazon.”

As annotated by the Authors’ Guild, the 2003 Google presentation also said “[e]verything else is secondary … but make money.” (The presentation was filed under seal so the context of the remark is unclear).

The Authors Guild filing, which asks Google to pay $750 per book, also reveals new details about how Google went about the massive scanning project which has produced more than 20 million digital titles since it began almost 10 years ago.

To carry out the scanning, Google used more than 300 machines and hundreds of contractors at locations near Boston, Ann Arbor and Mountain View, California. Google has now scanned more than 20 million titles, eight million of which are English language works still under copyright.

These new details come at a time when the long-running lawsuit, which began in 2005, is headed to an end game. The suit was on ice for several years as Google and the Authors Guild collaborated on a settlement rejected by the court in 2010 Now, both sides are sharpening their arguments over the whether the scanning is a fair use permitted under copyright law.

Google argues that the scanning has not cost authors any money and that it has produced innumerable benefits to scholars and libraries. The Authors Guild, on the other hand, argues that Google’s scanning was a high-handed unilateral decision that abrogates the role of traditional rights clearing agencies. The Guild also warns the digital collection could be subject to sabotage or hacking.

The next big date for the parties is October 9th when the parties will again appear before Judge Denny Chin to argue the case can be decided without a trial.

Google Books Statement of Facts Aug 2012

16 Responses to “Google records show book scanning was aimed at Amazon”

  1. kateillustrate

    Google is a corporation. Everything they do is for profit; nothing they do is for humanitarianism. That’s fine, as long as they don’t steal from authors in the process. They may change copyright law as we know it, by sheer brute force. Why, as a consumer, pay for a book when you can print off what you need for free, especially nonfiction chapters? Why, as Google, pay authors for ad revenue generated by searches of their books? Why pay for the books you scan? Dearie me, that’s messy. And it’s NEVER humanitarian when you steal content from creative people. Just ask musicians who have never recovered from fans who “love” music and never pay for it. Some bands have managed to adapt; many more have not and cannot make up the funds by touring. They were quieter musicians who used to make it by selling songs.

  2. laptopleon

    The question this article raises with me is: How did the Writers Guild obtain these internal, sealed documents? Every company uses non-disclosure, especially American companies. If they were indeed illegally obtained, can they be used in court?

  3. The digitising most of the worlds books will be seen as one of the major achievements of the 21st century. A library with all the worlds books available to anyone on the planet.

    Its a pity that this is marred by difficulties in reaching an accord with the publishers who were forced into action. They could have done it themselves and worked out the revenue model.

  4. I’m not so sure all of this was done for a huge profit. While I was at the University of Michigan, Googlebooks was digitizing hundreds of non-copyrighted books (very old and many out of print) for the sheer point of making it available to the world. You are able to access these books and download them for free. It costs a lot of money to digitize books and if Google wants to make a profit from it? Fantastic.
    Regarding compensation to authors that do hold books with copyrights, it is truly a shame that the parties have not been able to come to an agreement where everyone is content. The short term benefit for an author whose book is on Google, is probably not that great. However, the exposure that author receives, if his or her writing is actually engaging, can lead to extreme financial benefits in the future.
    It will be very interesting to see how all of this pans out in the future.

  5. David Thomas

    Eric MH: What is shocking is that Google, which is up to its ear lobes in cash, and evidently proclaims of motto of “Don’t Be Evil” is, in fact, scamming authors out of income raised from advertising and using legal largess to never have to pay for copyrights. That they recognized Amazon as a competitor early on is unremarkable. That they chose to cloak themselves in self-righteous humanitarianism, engage prestigious public and private institutions as unwitting co-conspirators, and squelch revenues from millions of persons is reprehensible. It clearly demonstrates that our intellectual heritage cannot be held in safekeeping by a private enterprise.

    • Pieter Hulshoff

      Google makes the investment in what can only be good for the authors considering the limitations on the access of the scans, and you would deny them the ability to make some money off the huge investment they’ve made to make this possible?

      • David Thomas

        No I would not deny them a profit for their investment, I just want the owners of copyrights paid properly. Google from the start has wanted to skip that element from the business plan.

      • Pieter Hulshoff

        Of course they weren’t, since the original plan did not involve anything that would harm the authors, and as such would be fair use.

        The example K. C. Watkins mentioned below however is a clear case of copyright infringement, and as such should carry a penalty.

    • The original settlement had provisions for Google to share both ad revenue and ebook sales revenue with the copyright holders.

      Secondly, Google’s profit motive need not be in conflict with humanitarian benefits. In fact, Google is one of the few big companies that make most of their money by providing products and services that have genuine humanitarian benefits.

      Finally, what Google is doing actually has many many upsides and NO downsides for copyright holders. In a different world, publishers would be PAYING Google to have their products appear in search results because of the exposure it gives them.

      I challenge anyone to show me a SINGLE direct downside of Google Books to authors or copyright holders.

      • K C Watkins

        They posted several of my 41 books up as free downloads (some were missing a few pages at most a single chapter) It took several e-mails from me pointing out that they were infringing copyright before they took them down. During the time my books were free on Google my sales of e-books fell dramatically. Google’s posting of my books as free downloads certainly didn’t benefit me. I informed my agent and publishers who discovered the works of other authors had also been treated in this cavalier fashion with postings of up 90% of books on Google as free downloads. Is Google hoping that authors don’t check the free availibility of their work on the web?
        Extremely disgruntled author

      • David Thomas

        The “original settlement” – yeah, fine. But that was not Google’s *original* business model, and its the original business model that Google ultimately wants, which screws the copyright holder indefinitely. The fact that they were willing to go the legal route for this long (and yes, it was clear from the start they were preparing for a long legal battle), from the start of the scanning process, indicates how much money there is in it for Google — and I’m not comfortable with an organization that abandons principle in the face of gargantuan profits.

      • Pieter Hulshoff

        I think K. C. Watkins’ example, other than the original plan for Google books, is a clear infringement of copyright, and as such should carry a penalty. Such infringement however is not a part of the overall setup plan.

  6. Eric MH

    Is this supposed to be shocking? The cornerstone of any business move is to take away from your competition. It would be against their interests to help Amazon if they are trying to gain search traffic for books.

    • Zato Gibson

      “The cornerstone of any business move is to take away from your competition.”

      paidContent works for Microsoft. The purpose of the article above is to discredit Google.
      The cornerstone of propaganda is to discredit the target.

  7. Eric Welch

    The Authors Guild is not serving its members well. The original settlement was for much less money and would have basically paid their lawyers and not much else.

    What they should have done, especially given their hatred for Amazon, is work out a deal so that Google pays an author a fee every time a work in copyright is accessed, even more if it is purchased through their store. That would have provided a competing platform with Amazon for digital works. Their current tactic, should Google’s use be considered fair use, a possibility, would lose them the store.