Monthly Archives: September 2005

Is Google a charity? Some handy talking points for the Google Class-Action Lawsuit

Many thanks to all of you for who took the time to write notes of support for our lawsuit against Google.

Heading to a dinner party this weekend? Here are some talking points on the suit to share with friends:


  1. Google is a commercial, not a charitable, enterprise. Google is worth roughly $90 billion, making staggering profits through its online advertising programs. Its investment in Google Library is intended to bring even more visitors and profits to its website and ancillary services. The Guild is all for profit, but when the profit comes from the works of authors, the authors should be properly compensated.
  2. Google is scanning entire books, not just “fair use snippets.” Google is digitizing countless texts, your books, in their entirety — every sentence, every carefully chosen word — without your permission. That Google presents browsers with small selections of your work doesn’t change that.
  3. It’s not just public domain books. The Guild has no objection, of course, to the digitization of public domain works. The Google Library project goes far beyond that, encompassing works that are still protected by copyright, including in print and out of print works.
  4. Out of print doesn’t mean public domain. Out of print works are valuable. Out of print works are republished every day, bringing welcome new advances to authors and the prospect of new royalty income. That Google is willing to sink so much money into digitizing these works is further proof of their ongoing value.
  5. Authors (and the Guild) aren’t opposed to making their works searchable online with a proper license. With a proper license, in fact, far more than “snippets” could be made available to users. The opportunities are boundless, but it all starts with a valid license. This is no big deal, really; businesses large and small sign license agreements every day.


You’ll hear more from us soon. Have a good weekend.

Authors Guild Sues Google, Citing “Massive Copyright Infringement”

Contact: Paul Aiken

NEW YORK — The Authors Guild and a Lincoln biographer, a children’s book author, and a former Poet Laureate of the United States filed a class action suit today in federal court in Manhattan against Google over its unauthorized scanning and copying of books through its Google Library program. The suit alleges that the $90 billion search engine and advertising juggernaut is engaging in massive copyright infringement at the expense of the rights of individual writers.

Through its Library program, Google is reproducing works still under the protection of copyright as well as public domain works from the collection of the University of Michigan’s library.

“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 individual plaintiffs are Herbert Mitgang, a former New York Times editorial writer and the author of numerous fiction and nonfiction books, including “The Fiery Trial: A Life of Lincoln,” published by Viking Press; Betty Miles, the award-winning author of many works for children and young adults, and the co-author of “Just Think,” published by Alfred A. Knopf; and Daniel Hoffman, the author and editor of many volumes of poetry, translation, and literary criticism, including “Barbarous Knowledge: Myth in the Poetry of Yeats, Graves and Muir” and “Striking the Stones,” both published by Oxford University Press. Mr. Hoffman was the 1973-74 Poet Laureate of the United States.

Google has agreements with four academic libraries — those of Stanford, Harvard, Oxford and the University of Michigan — and with the New York Public Library to create digital copies of substantial parts of their collections and to make those collections available for searching online. Google has not sought the approval of the authors of these works for this program.

The complaint seeks damages and an injunction to halt further infringements. The Authors Guild (, the largest society of published writers in the United States, represents more than 8,000 authors.