The Song of the Sirens: Google Book's Project and Copyright in a Digital Age

15 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2011

See all articles by Clarice Castro

Clarice Castro

Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE)

Ruy de Queiroz

Centro de Informática - Univ Federal de Pernambuco

Date Written: September 1, 2011


Numerous scholars have highlighted the extraordinary book-scanning project created by Google in 2004. The project aims to create a digital full text search index which would provide people with online access to books and assist research. A few months after the original idea started being implemented, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers-AAP filed a class-action lawsuit, claiming that Google Book’s Project violated copyright law in the United States. The main contention was that the books which were not under public domain could not have been scanned without permission and compensation for authors and publishers.

Google’s Book Project radically changed its character from the time of its birth until the negotiation of an Amended Settlement Agreement - ASA with the plaintiffs. It has raised serious controversies not only regarding different aspects of the future of the Internet but also over the issue of privatization of knowledge. Those in favour of the initiative highlight the astonishing accomplishment of Google, allowing us to access books more easily than ever before in human history. However, their claim is as dangerous as the song of the sirens. While at first sight Google tells a tale of extraordinary inclusion, it excludes those who cannot pay to access snippets or limited view of around 80% of the books available.

We will also discuss the Amended Settlement Agreement of Google with the Author’s Guild and its failure on March, 2011. Finally, we will explore the concept of “fair use,” or “exceptions and limitation on copyright,” which provides for full access to books to any individual, library or archive as long as they are used for educational or scientific purposes.

Keywords: Google’s Book Project, Amended Settlement Agreement, Fair Dealing, Exceptions and Limitations

Suggested Citation

Castro, Clarice and de Queiroz, Ruy, The Song of the Sirens: Google Book's Project and Copyright in a Digital Age (September 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Clarice Castro (Contact Author)

Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (UFPE) ( email )

Cidade Universitária
Cidade Universitária, Pernambuco 50670-901

Ruy De Queiroz

Centro de Informática - Univ Federal de Pernambuco ( email )

Cidade Universitária
Recife, Pernambuco


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