Stanford librarians disappointed with ruling in Google case, but university plans to continue digitizing books

Federal Judge Denny Chin says the deal between Google and publishers "goes too far." But Stanford does not have to halt its project of digitizing the books in the university's libraries. More than 2 million of the university's books have been scanned since 2004.

A federal judge's rejection of a deal between Google and book publishers that would let the search engine company share digitized copies of the world's books does not mean an end to Stanford's plan to scan and preserve the contents of its libraries.

"We are participating in the project and do not have any current plans to change our position," said Debra Zumwalt, vice president and general counsel for the university.

The university is analyzing the decision and will consult with other libraries participating in Google's digitization project.

Google reached a $125 million settlement with authors and publishers after the company was sued for copyright infringement in 2005, shortly after starting to make digital copies of every published book. Tuesday's decision by U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan said the deal "goes too far" and would give Google "a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission."

Stanford has not been part of the lawsuit but supported the settlement, arguing that digitizing its books would preserve fragile volumes, make them easily accessible and allow researchers to efficiently scan and mine them for information that would otherwise require reading entire works. Google has scanned about 2 million books owned by Stanford, and more than 24 other major libraries are involved in the project.

"We are disappointed by the court's decision," said Michael Keller, the university's librarian.  "The attraction of the project for Stanford lay in our need to preserve for long-term use the contents of books – many of which are deteriorating on the shelf – and the desire to index and otherwise analyze the contents of books in order to expose more information, generate more knowledge and foster more expression. Such knowledge and information in turn not only drive teaching, learning and research, but also drive our economy, our political and social development, and our lives in myriad ways."

Keller said Chin's decision leaves unanswered several issues, including how to create a universal library, how long books should be protected by copyright and how to deal with access to orphan works – books that are still under copyright protection but are not necessarily marketable and have no identifiable copyright holder.

"These questions and the fair-use limits deserve congressional attention, just as Judge Chin has written in his decision," Keller said.