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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2005, 05:25 GMT 06:25 UK
Authors sue Google over book plan
Google headquarters
Google says its plan will raise awareness and sales of books
A US writers' group is suing internet search engine Google, claiming that its plan to digitise major library book collections infringes author copyright.

The Authors Guild has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The lawsuit seeks class action status, seeks damages and demands an injunction against further infringements.

Google said it regretted the Authors Guild action, asked for more talks, and claimed its plans benefited writers.

Co-plaintiffs in Google action
Authors Guild - professional group for published writers
Herbert Mitgang - historian, critic, ex-New York Times writer
Betty Miles - children's book author
Daniel Hoffman - Poet Laureate in the US - 1973/74

The suit names as co-plaintiffs The Authors Guild and writers Herbert Mitgang, Betty Miles and Daniel Hoffman.

Google has a grand plan of "organizing the world's information and making it more universally accessible and useful".

It hopes to pump $200m (110m) into creating a digital archive of millions of books from four top US libraries - the libraries of Stanford, Michigan and Harvard universities, and of the New York Public Library - by 2015.

It is also digitising out-of-copyright books from the UK's Oxford University.

'Brazen violation'

However it has temporarily stopped scanning copyrighted texts until November to allay concerns about the plan, after several groups complained about copyright violation.

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.

Google has said copyright holders who contact the company and ask for their books to be withheld from the project, will be respected.

Only small portions of the books are shown unless the content owner gives permission to show more
Google statement

But critics say that moves the onus from Google to the writers.

"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.

"(Authors), not Google, have the exclusive rights to... authorize such reproduction, distribution and display of their works," the guild's complaint says.

But Google said its project "directly benefits authors and publishers by increasing awareness of and sales of the books in the programme".

"Only small portions of the books are shown unless the content owner gives permission to show more," it added.

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