Google Library Effort Hits Legal Wall

Google's efforts to index the catalogs of several libraries is again running into copyright issues as a group of authors accused the search giant of "massive copyright infringement." They alledge that Google never approached them for permission to index their books, and have taken the search engine to court.

The group behind the suit is the Author's Guild, a non-profit organization that lobbies for free speech, copyrights, and other issues of importance to writers.

Saying their books "have not been licensed for commercial use," the authors have asked a U.S. District Court in Manhattan to bar Google from copying any more books. The group is also seeking class-action status for the lawsuit so anyone with a book in the University of Michigan library, one of the libraries the search engine is trying to index, could join the suit.

It is not exactly clear why the group selected the University of Michigan library rather than all the libraries, or any of the other five libraries taking part in the effort.

"This is a plain and brazen violation of copyright law," said Authors Guild president Nick Taylor. "It's not up to Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of these copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied."

The Guild claims in the suit that Google should have known that it needed to obtain permission from authors before copying their books, especially for commercial use.

Google defended the practice in a statement, pointing to the fact it has set up a system for authors and publishers to opt out of the index, and said it regrets that the Author's Guild had "chosen litigation to try to stop a program that will make books and the information within them more discoverable to the world."

Last December, Google announced an agreement with five major libraries to scan and index millions of books and periodicals. The information would be integrated into Google's Web search over the next several years.

The company previously had said it would direct visitors to buy the books if they wanted more content than Google would provide.

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