An organization representing more than 8,000 U.S. authors filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday accusing Google Inc. of "massive copyright infringement." The Authors Guild wants to block Google Print from reproducing works still under copyright and placing them online.
Last year, Google began working with universities Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, and Michigan, as well as the New York Public Library, to scan large portions of their collections and make them searchable on the web. Users can do full-text searches of books, see the actual pages online, and are offered links to purchase any available material.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeks an immediate halt to the program and asks for damages.
"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."
"We regret that this group chose to sue us over a program that will make millions of books more discoverable to the world -- especially since any copyright holder can exclude their books from the program," said a statement on the Google site. "At most we show only a brief snippet of text where their search term appears, along with basic bibliographic information and several links to online booksellers and libraries."
Authors can exclude their material from the program by filling out an online form.
Critics of Google Print say that by forcing the author to initiate removal of copyrighted material, the burden of upholding copyright is placed on the authors rather than on individuals or organizations infringing that right.
Google says that "the use we make of all the books we scan through the Library Project is fully consistent with both the fair use doctrine under U.S. copyright law and the principles underlying copyright law itself."