Google records show book scanning was aimed at Amazon

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Google 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.

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

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