Google Will Subpoena Rivals to Help Fight Copyright Suits

From Bloomberg News

Google Inc. will subpoena information from Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Inc. to help fight copyright lawsuits over its book-scanning project.

Google, the world’s most-used search engine, is seeking information on rival projects by the companies, including book lists, costs, estimated sales, dealings with publishers and possible benefit or harm to copyright owners, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

Publishers and authors have sued Google, claiming the Mountain View, Calif.-based company doesn’t have the right to make copies of books without permission. Google says it is complying with copyright law because the search engine shows only “snippets” of protected books to the public. Google said it would keep subpoenaed information confidential.


“We have also made clear to these organizations that we will work with them to address any concerns about their confidential information,” Google spokeswoman Megan Lamb said. A judge has issued an order to restricting who can see confidential documents, she said.

Spokesmen for Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo didn’t have immediate comments.

Microsoft and Yahoo announced plans to scan library books a year ago. They are part of a group called the Open Content Alliance, which includes Britain’s National Archives and the University of California., the world’s largest online retailer, offers a feature called Search Inside that lets users search for specific terms and view a limited number of pages. Publishers need to enroll and submit books to be included in the project.

Google, which doesn’t disclose how many books it has scanned, also wants to know the titles, authors and copyright status of books already offered through competitors’ book projects, the documents said.

The company also is seeking information from Random House Inc., HarperCollins Publishers Inc., Holtzbrinck Publishers and the Assn. of American Publishers.

The subpoena notices were filed with the court Wednesday and Sept. 29. On Sept. 26, U.S. District Judge John Sprizzo issued an order that any information gathered in the case would be used only for litigation purposes.

The Assn. of American Publishers, which is coordinating legal action on behalf of publishing houses, doesn’t object to Google signing agreements with individual publishers, association spokeswoman Judith Platt said. The problem comes when entire libraries are copied without regard to the copyright owners.

Google says anyone who doesn’t want their work copied can opt out of the project. Platt said U.S. copyright law puts the burden on would-be copiers to seek permission.

Google’s book scanning project, started in December 2004, includes titles from seven libraries including Stanford University and Harvard University.

Microsoft, the world’s largest software maker, said a year ago that it planned to offer a search engine for books called MSN Book Search. The Redmond, Wash.-based company said at the time that it would initially scan out-of-copyright titles.

Yahoo also announced plans for a database of scanned books and said it would scan works only with copyright holders’ consent or books that were out of copyright.