NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Google will resume its plans to scan copyrighted library books into its search engine after a self-imposed hiatus, according to a published report that says the effort could set the stage for a legal fight affecting both the future of the Internet and the publishing industry.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google's Print Library Project, which was announced in December but suspended in August, still is raising objections from publishers and authors who argue that the effort impinges on intellectual property rights. But the search engine provider said it will resume scanning the collections of Stanford University and the University of Michigan "soon."
The Journal reports that Google's (Research) initial scanning efforts will target works that are out of print, a strategy it said it was always following but that the paper said it had not previously disclosed. Some of those out-of-print books may still have copyright protections, however.
The company hopes the attention to out-of-print books could strengthen its argument that the project won't negatively affect book sales, the newspaper reports, but publishers and authors suing the company charging violation of copyright protections tell the newspaper that focus isn't likely to soften their legal opposition to Google's plans.
"Books that are out of print frequently come back in print," said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, which sued Google in September. "A university press or a smaller house may bring it back, or it may come back when the author publishes a new book with a major publisher."
The company plans to have millions of library books run through digital scanners, allowing Google users of its search engine for phrases and other information within the text of books and then see relevant portions of the text.
For books in the libraries' collections that still have copyright protection, Google is allowing rights holders to proactively "opt out" of the scanning, rather than only scanning copyrighted materials for which the rights holders have given their explicit permission to be included.
At its core, Google and the copyright holders that are suing it are battling over a legal doctrine known as "fair use," which allows the use of copyrighted material for certain purposes, including teaching, research and news reporting. Some lawyers told the newspaper that a lawsuit challenging Google's efforts could make it to higher courts and determine legal precedent for fair use in the Internet age.
Susan Wojcicki, a Google vice president for product management, told the newspaper that because Google wants to be able to search all books, it plans to eventually even scan in-print material for which it doesn't have the author's or publisher's consent, though Google "would never show a full page without the right from a copyright holder."
In October, Google competitor Yahoo! (Research) announced a consortium that plans its own book scanning project, although it does not plan to challenge copyrighted materials.
For a look at more details about Google's book scanning plans, click here.