University of California Library Joins Google Book Search
Google, while proceeding with its project to scan these books, has taken two steps to protect copyright holders. First, they allow copyright holders to raise objections to the scanning of their books. However, this requires the copyright holder to discover Google's use of the book and make an objection. This is kind of backwards, but the beauty is that it opens public access to all of those books still technically under copyright but about which the holders no longer know or care. Secondly, Google only allows searchers to view a "snippet" of the work. Unlike the older material, where the searcher can see the entire book, with the protected book, all they can see is a few lines. You can find those books containing your search terms, but if you want to read more than a sentence or two, you will have to buy the book or visit a library. Google will show you no more.
This has not been sufficient for several publisher organizations and copyright holders. Their position is that their copyrights are being violated because Google is copying the entire work into its database. Google, on the other hand, takes the position that this falls within the "fair use" copyright exception because all they ever show the public is a brief "snippet." This is like a book reviewer quoting a few lines from a book. That is "fair use" of the work and does not violate its copyright, though quoting the entire book would be a violation. Whether what Google copies (everything) or what it shows (a line or two) determines whether this is "fair use" or violation is something I'll leave to the legal minds. However, it is interesting to note that while the other universities, except Michigan, have come down on the side of caution, and are only scanning pre-1923 books, California has sided with Google. They are scanning the relatively newer (but not recent) material as well. U.C.'s position is clearly stated in its press release: "Google respects copyright law and has specifically designed Book Search to comply with it."
And so, Google moves forward, and despite the unresolved legal issues, you have to believe that Google's attorneys must be confident of their position to proceed, and the firm must surely be able to hire the best lawyers money can buy.