Google's Digital Library Plan Hits Another Snag

Sep 18, 2012
Originally published on September 18, 2012 2:29 pm



Google's plan to create the world's largest digital library ran into legal problems when groups of authors sued to defend the rights to their work. If that sounds like an old story that's because it is. The lawsuit, now in its 11th year, has run into yet another legal delay.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: When Google set out to scan the world's books it was ostensibly for high-minded reasons. In an interview a few years ago, co-founder Sergey Brin told me it was part of Google's grand mission to make all the world's information searchable. He didn't want to wait because books can be lost at any moment.

SERGEY BRIN: And there are floods and there are fires. And, of course, you know, the most famous example of all, the library at Alexandria.

SYDELL: Which burned to the ground back in ancient times. Hopefully, this lawsuit will be resolved before the Internet is ancient.

Since 2004, Google has been fighting with the Authors Guild. The Guild claims the company can't scan books without getting permission from the author.

Yesterday, a judge put the case on hold while Google appeals the right of the Authors Guild to bring a class action.

UC Berkeley law professor Pam Samuelson says Google is confident enough to keep scanning.

PAM SAMUELSON: But the sense that I have from talking to people is that maybe they have slowed down a little bit.

SYDELL: But, that may also be because Google has reportedly already scanned some 20 million books, now safe from fires - even if the public can't access them.

Laura Sydell, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.