By Eric Auchard
The Authors Guild, a U.S. writers advocacy group, sued Google Inc. on
Tuesday in federal court, alleging that the Web search leader's bid to
digitize the book collections of major libraries infringes on
individual author's copyrights.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York against Google, names as co-plaintiffs The
Authors Guild and writers Herbert Mitgang, Betty Miles and Daniel
Hoffman was poet Laureate of the United States in 1973-74. Mitgang is
an historian, critic and former New York Times editorial writer. Miles
is a children's book author.
The lawsuit seeks class action status, asks for damages and demands an
injunction to halt further infringements.
This is the latest round in the battle between Google and publishers
that pit copyright holders' interests against the company's mission of
"organizing the world's information and making it more universally
accessible and useful."
A Google spokesman said the company regretted that the Authors Guild
had chosen to sue rather than continue discussions.
"Google Print directly benefits authors and publishers by increasing
awareness of and sales of the books in the program," Google said in a
statement. "Only small portions of the books are shown unless the
content owner gives permission to show more."
A year ago, Google began working with five of the world's libraries --
at Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, the University of Michigan and the New
York Public Library -- to make large parts of their book collections
searchable on the Web.
The action by the 86-year-old Authors Guild is part of a push by the
organization to roll back efforts by Web sites to make the contents of
books freely available online.
In a related case, the group has been seeking for a decade to force
online publishers from New York Times Co. to Amazon.com to pay
royalties to writers whose stories appear in online databases without
In August, Mountain View, California-based Google said it planned to
temporarily scale back plans to make the full text of copyrighted
books available on its Internet site.
Google has said it will respect the wishes of copyright holders who
contacted the company and asked for their books to be withheld from
the project. Meanwhile, it said it was working with publishers and
librarians to scan books in the public domain that are not covered by
Critics of the program said that Google's plan to allow copyright
holders to opt out of the project switches the burden of upholding
copyright from infringers to copyright holders.
"This is a plain and brazen violation of copyright law," Nick Taylor,
president of the 8,000-member New York-based Authors Guild, said in a
statement on Tuesday.
"(Authors), not Google, have the exclusive rights to ... authorize
such reproduction, distribution and display of their works," the
An attorney with Kohn Swift & Graf P.C., the plaintiffs' law firm
based in Philadelphia, said the lawsuit had been filed earlier today
in U.S. federal court in Manhattan.
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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