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Google Print Overview: Concept and legal issues

December 2003 - August 2005


"Our ultimate goal is to work with publishers and libraries to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages that helps users discover new books and publishers find new readers."

"We're trying to make offline information like books searchable and available online. That's a natural next step as part of Google's mission."


December 2003

  • Google launches an experimental program called Google Print that indexes excerpts of popular books.

  • Google itself is hosting the excerpts.

  • Publishers participating in the program have to grant permission to Google to include book content. A range of publishers are taking part, including major houses like Dell, Knopf and Random House.

  • Established publishers, authors, or agents can use a contact form to be considered for inclusion in the program.

  • Nothing is controversial about that program in terms of copyright issues.

  • Matches from Google Print show up in regular search results.


October 2004

  • Google starts working with libraries at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, Stanford University, Oxford University and the New York Public Library to digitize books in their collections and make them accessible via Google Print. Google plans to digitize and make available through its Google Book Search service approximately 15 million volumes within a decade.

  • The University of Michigan plans to scan seven million titles over a six year period using a non-destructive scanning technology that Google has developed.

  • Harvard allows Google to digitize 40.000 titles.

  • "In-copyright" books: Searchers will only see a few sentences of text around the search term along with bibliographic info and links to purchase the actual book.
    "Out-of copyright material": Searchers will see the full text, though printing will be disabled when viewing this content.
  • „Does Google or the library profit when I buy a book from a Google Print page? – On Google Print pages we offer links to popular booksellers where you can buy the book and, in the case of out of print books, we offer links to used booksellers. These links aren't paid for by those sites, nor does Google or any library benefit if you buy something from one of these retailers.“ Google Inc., Library Project – Common Questions

See the University of Michigan / Google agreement.


December 2004


February 2005

  • France's national library (Bibliothèque nationale de France) is concerned with Google's ambitious program to digitize library materials from several large libraries "favouring Anglo-Saxon ideas and the English language."

  • French President Jacques Chirac vows to launch a new "counter-offensive" against American cultural domination, enlisting the support of the British, German and Spanish governments in a multi-million euro bid to put the whole of European literature online.  


March 2005

  • Broad debate about Google Print and copyright law.

  • Sally Morris, chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers—an international association of over 300 not-for-profit publishers: “The law does not permit wholesale copying (which is what digitisation is) by a commercial organisation of works that are still in copyright. It is also illegal to make those works available digitally once they have been copied... Google needs to obtain permission from publishers before using their work."


April 2005

  • France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain send a letter signed by their leaders asking EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to coordinate the effort of creating an online repository of European literature. The letter came after the national libraries of 19 European nations agreed to support the plan as well: "The leaders of the undersigned national libraries wish to support the initiative of Europe's leaders aimed at a large and organised digitisation of the works belonging to our continent's heritage," the heads of the libraries wrote in a statement carried by the Associated Press. "Such a move needs a tight coordination of national ambitions at EU level to decide on the selection of works."

  • Europe's less flexible fair use principles make unlicensed copying of protected works much riskier in Europe than in the USA (That's also the reason why Google's deal with Oxford University is limited to books already in the public domain).


May 2005

  • The Association of American University Presses writes a letter to Google expressing their concerns about the Google Library program: Google's plan entails a "broad sweeping violation of the Copyright Act" with the potential for "serious financial damages to the members" of the association.

  • Google asserts the right to go through with its plan under the fair use provision of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 107.


June 2005

  • Association of American Publishers sends a letter to Google requesting at least a six month moratorium on scanning copyrighted library materials and a meeting between top Google executives and leaders of the publishing group.


July 2005


August 2005


Google Print / Google Book Search

Google Print: December 2003 - August 2004

Google Print - Let the legal battle begin: September / October 2005

Google Book Search - November 2005 - 2006

Google Book Search - January 2007 -

Google Book Search - Articles

Google's Library Partners


Search Engine Law Overview


Masthead/Curriculum Vitae
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