Litigation between Google and authors began in 2005 and ended on Nov. 14 with a win for Google and university libraries, including Purdue.
Google began the Google Books Project in 2004 when Harvard University, Stanford University, New York Public Library, Oxford University and University of Michigan agreed to collaborate with Google on the project. Google aimed to create a database of scanned books to allow future generations access to literary works.
Since 2004, more universities have joined the project, including Purdue.
In addition to scanning literary works, Google is scanning and compiling a database of federal documents.
Donna Ferullo, director of the University Copyright Office, said Purdue is in the process of adding to the database.
“Purdue has provided materials for the federal documents, but have not yet provided any books for the Book Project simply because of all the litigations,” said Ferullo. “A lot of universities have kind of stopped just to see what was going to happen.”
Ferullo explains that with this project, students could search for a word or phrase in the database, then view the books with matching content. From there, students could look to check out a book they need or even buy it online.
Ferullo said it is likely that Purdue’s engineering documents will be submitted to the project once the lawsuit is settled. This would allow Purdue students to easily find the specific topic they are researching.
Publishers originally had a case against Google but dropped it after reaching an agreement that any books not protected by copyright would be offered in full text access. Books still under copyright would display only a page or paragraph including the searched text.
Charles Watkinson, director and head of Purdue’s Libraries’ Scholarly Publishing Services, understands why publishers had a problem with the project.
“When a big tech-giant like Google makes copies of books that publishers own the rights to, there are understandable concerns that they are trying to make money from them at the publishers’ expense,” said Watkinson. “Why should a company that didn’t do any work create books to profit from them?”
The Authors Guild did not drop the case it recently lost and went to the Court of Appeals. If the ruling stands, many, including Purdue students will benefit from the project.
“Google Books makes it easy to check citations, find books that may have relevant information that can be check out of the libraries, and generally search more than just websites,” said Watkinson.
Judge Denny Chin agreed with Google, saying the use of the work was transformative. Chin determined that the Google Books Project expanded the market for books by helping people discover books that they would never have known about but for Google.
The project has had some wrinkles, but many expect the appeal to rule the same way, and Google will continue making progress with universities. However, nothing is definite.
Watkinson said, “It’s very clear that the Internet is creating big challenges to laws that were created in the age of print.”