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The Google Book Settlement: The Net Benefits of Private Contract Precedence in the Absence of Adequate Copyright Law

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Thesis type
(Project Report) M.Pub.
Date created
Internet search giant Google Inc. began digitizing library collections in 2004, confident that scanning and indexing books to display excerpts based on users’ search queries were fair uses under US copyright law. Authors and publishers disagreed, and in 2005 representatives filed class action copyright infringement complaints. Rather than litigate, the parties negotiated a settlement that not only allowed Google’s original uses but licensed Google to use, and sell online, millions of books published before 5 January 2009. This report uses the experience of Canadian scholarly publisher University of British Columbia Press to illuminate the 13 November 2009 proposed amended settlement agreement’s technical details, and examines the settlement’s economic and cultural costs and benefits and its implications for digital publishing, public access, and copyright law in a rapidly developing digital market. Whatever this settlement’s outcome, its proposal underlines the need for meaningful, legislative copyright reform capable of encompassing present technological realities.
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