Google's $125m book settlement could open up digital publishing

NEW YORK - Millions of books, including out-of-print titles, could be made available via Google after the search company settled a lawsuit brought by publishers and authors over its book-scanning project.

An agreement has been reached by Google, the Authors Guild and members of the Association of American Publishers after more than two years of negotiations.

Google will pay US publishers $125m (£74.8m), including $45m to be spread between authors whose work was scanned without permission. US readers will benefit from the settlement by being able to access snippets of books through search, as well as pay for full online access to books.

The Authors Guild estimates that the money being paid by Google could see rights holders being paid a minimum of $60 each, depending how many authors claim a share of the payout.

However, the guild said it was the revenue potential for members in the future that was the ambitious part of the deal.

Roy Blount, president of the guild, has written on its site: "Rightsholders will receive a share of revenues from institutional subscriptions to the collection of books made available through Google Book Search under the settlement, as well as from sales of online consumer access to the books. They will also be paid for printouts at public libraries, as well as for other uses."

Google will offer US colleges and universities subscriptions, as well as making free, full-text viewing available at dedicated terminals in public libraries in the US. Authors will be able to opt out from having their work available.

Outside the US, access to books.google.com will continue as it is now offering partial access.

Richard Sarnoff, chairman of the Association of American Publishers, said: "This historic settlement is a win for everyone.

"From our perspective, the agreement creates an innovative framework for the use of copyrighted material in a rapidly digitising world, serves readers by enabling broader access to a huge trove of hard-to-find books, and benefits the publishing community by establishing an attractive commercial model that offers both control and choice to the rightsholder."

The agreement needs to be approved by US courts before being put into practice.