Google Books

Google Books, aka Google Book Search, is an audacious project, begun in 2004, to bring the power of Google’s search capabilities to printed books. In addition to contracting with publishers of current imprints, the project involved a Library Partners program to scan tens of millions of books from major libraries around the world, and apply full-text indexing to them, making them full searchable. To date, Google has scanned and indexed over 12 million volumes (of which over 2 million came from Stanford’s stacks), and the list of participating libraries has grown to about 30, from around the world.

Stanford University (along with the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Oxford University Press and the New York Public Library) was one of the original libraries to partner with Google in the Google Library Project part of Google Books to digitize, search and index the world’s printed books. Stanford has a long history, along with many other universities, of contributing to the commonwealth of knowledge. In that long history and as part of its research and pedagogical programs, the university has amassed deep and rich collections of the records of civilization in its libraries. In addition to the development of new knowledge and educating young people for productive lives and leadership, Stanford sees Google Books as a means to make much of its collections useful to citizens around the world.

The scanning of library books proved immediately controversial, and two class-action suits - one on behalf of publishers, the other on behalf of authors, both based on copyright concerns – were brought against Google in 2005 in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York. Scanning continued, and the number of international partners grew. No library was named as a party to the suits.

By 2008, the parties to the suits devised a complicated and sweeping “Proposed Settlement Agreement” to resolve differences and create a mechanism to create income for copyright holders by monetizing the program. The Agreement would have also created greatly increased reading access to the books scanned, well beyond the limited reading access associated with the original, discovery-oriented project. The Agreement, as proposed, also proved controversial and drew numerous critics, not least among them the Antitrust Division of the US Dept. of Justice. In 2009, the parties responded to these concerns with an Amended Settlement Agreement, however, that agreement was rejected by Judge Chin in March of 2011.  

In November, 2013, Judge Chin formally dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that Google's use of the works qualified as Fair Use under US copyright law. That decision has been appealed by the Author’s Guild.