Google Books Litigation Page
Concerning the Google Books Settlement
- EPIC Launches "Fix Google Privacy" Campaign: In response to the recent announcement that Google has agreed to adopt a "Comprehensive Privacy Plan," EPIC has launched "Fix Google Privacy," a campaign to encourage Internet users to offer their suggestions to improve safeguards for Google's products and services. Submissions to EPIC will be forwarded to the Federal Trade Commission and considered by the agency as part of the final Privacy Plan. All comments must be sent before May 2, 2011. For more information, see EPIC - In Re Google Buzz and FTC - Analysis to Aid Public Comments. (Apr. 5, 2011)
- EPIC Urges Court to Reject Google Books Settlement, Warns that Privacy Problems Cannot Be Fixed: In federal district court in New York, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg urged Judge Denny Chin to reject the revised settlement now before the court in Authors Guild v. Google. Mr. Rotenberg said that the settlement would "turn upside down" well established safeguards for reader privacy, including state privacy laws, library confidentiality obligations, and the development of techniques that minimize privacy intrusions. Mr. Rotenberg warned that the settlement would eviscerate legal safeguards for library patrons, commercialize access to information, consolidate Google's control of the Internet, and put in place an elaborate system of user authentication and watermarking. "A person at any library or any university in the United States that attempted to retrieve information from Google's digital library would be uniquely tagged and tracked. There is simply no precedent for the creation of such power." For more, see EPIC: Google Books and Privacy, EPIC: Google Books Litigation, and EPIC: Google Books: Policy Without Privacy, EPIC: Google Books Hearing Press Release. (Feb. 19, 2010)
- EPIC to Defend Readers' Privacy at Google Books Hearing: On February 18, 2010, EPIC President Marc Rotenberg will appear in federal court in New York to represent readers' privacy and right to read anonymously. EPIC will urge Judge Chin to reject Google's deal with publishers, which requires readers to provide sensitive personal information to view digital books offered by Google, but fails to protect their privacy. EPIC previously moved to intervene in the case, observing that readers' interests are not represented, and warning that the settlement "threatens well-established standards that safeguard intellectual freedom," "imperils longstanding Constitutional rights," and "threatens to eviscerate state library privacy laws that safeguard library patrons in the United States." For more, see EPIC: Google Books and Privacy, EPIC: Google Books Litigation, and EPIC: Google Books: Policy Without Privacy. (Feb. 9, 2010)
- Revised Google Books Settlement Fails to Fix Key Problems: Even after revisions, the Google Books Settlement still fails to address antitrust, privacy, and copyright concerns, according the the US Justice Department, privacy advocates, and academic authors.On February 4, the Justice Department filed a brief and issued a statement opposing the revised settlement. The Department said the revisions still ran afoul of authors' copyrights and did not fix antitrust problems. EPIC also continues to object to the settlement because it does not contain adequate privacy protections for readers. On February 4, EPIC informed the court of its intent to appear at the February 18 Fairness Hearing on behalf of users' privacy interests. For more information, see EPIC: Google Books and Privacy, EPIC: Google Books Litigation, and EPIC: Google Books: Policy Without Privacy. (Feb. 5, 2010)
- Revised Google Books Settlement Announced, Privacy Problems Remain: The parties in the Google Books Settlement have filed an amended settlement. The Department of Justice, authors, EPIC and other privacy advocates criticized the original settlement. The revised settlement attempts to address price fixing and concerns about orphan works. However, the revised settlement does little to address privacy. Professor Pamela Samuelson stated “There are dozens of provisions in the settlement agreement that call for monitoring of what users do with books and essentially no privacy protections built into the settlement agreement.” For more information, see EPIC Google Books Settlement and Privacy, EPIC Google Books Litigation, and EPIC Google Books: Policy Without Privacy. (Nov. 17, 2009)
- EPIC Moves to Intervene in Google Book Settlement, Cites Absence of Privacy Safeguards: Today, EPIC filed papers in federal district court on the proposed settlement between Google, authors, and publishers. The Google Books settlement would create a single digital library, operated by Google, but currently fails to limit Google's use of the personal information collected. EPIC stated that the settlement "mandates the collection of the most intimate personal information, threatens well-established standards that safeguard intellectual freedom, and imperils longstanding Constitutional rights, including the right to read anonymously." EPIC further warned that the Google Books deal "threatens to eviscerate state library privacy laws that safeguard library patrons in the United States." EPIC has previously participated as a "friend of the court" in many cases involving privacy issues. PRESS RELEASE - Media Call at 1 pm ET, Friday (9/4/09). For more information, see EPIC Google Books Settlement and Privacy. (Sep. 4, 2009)
- Federal Trade Commission Issues Statements on Google Books Settlement and Privacy: With the Google Books Settlement now under consideration in federal court, FTC Chairman John Liebowitz today issued a statement, calling attention to privacy concerns and the vast amount of consumer information that could be collected. The Chairman expressed the Commission's commitment to evaluating the privacy issues presented by Google Books, a sentiment that was echoed by Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour in her statement. In a separate letter, FTC Consumer Protection Director David C. Vladeck urged Google to address consumer privacy concerns and to limit the secondary use of user data. For more information, see EPIC Google Books Settlement and Privacy. (Sep. 4, 2009)
- Privacy Opposition to Google Books Settlement Grows: Civil liberties organizations are urging Internet users to tell Google to adopt privacy protections for the Google Book Search. A judge in New York will determine later this year whether to approve the proposed settlement that would establish the service and give Google access to detailed personal information without any privacy safeguards. For more information, see EPIC Google Books Settlement and Privacy. (Jul. 23, 2009)
In 2005, the Authors Guild filed a lawsuit against Google arising from the Google Books project. In October 2008, the parties announced a proposed settlement. Academics and rightsholders have criticized the Settlement terms on grounds ranging from antitrust to privacy. The Settlement sets forth non-privacy terms, including provisions regarding royalties and book advertising, in great detail. However, it does not contain meaningful privacy protections for readers or authors. Various entities and individuals have filed comments, objections, and amicus curiae briefs concerning the proposed settlement.
On Sept. 4, 2009, EPIC filed a motion to intervene in the Google Books Settlement. EPIC sought to represent readers' privacy interests in the lawsuit. The Court denied EPIC's motion to intervene, but invited EPIC to filed objections to the settlement highlighting threats to readers' privacy. EPIC filed its objections on Sept. 8, 2009.
The Settlement Allows Google to Collect and Store Vast Amounts of Personally Identifiable Information
The Google Books Settlement allows for the collection and storage of vast amounts of personally identifiable user information that can then be used to create detailed user profiles.
The Settlement describes three ways that users can get access to the full text of copy righted books. All of the methods laid out in the settlement require that the user identify himself in order to access these books. All of the methods also permit Google to collect, retain, and transfer personally identifiable information.
The Settlement provisions indicate that users will almost always be required to use a Google Account to use the Google Book Search database. This requirement would permit Google to create detailed user profiles that link a user's Google Book searches with her other Google account activity, including emails, internet searches, mapping services, and any other Google product she uses.
In addition, the Settlement Agreement allows Google to place advertisements on Google Book Search pages as long as those advertisements are not placed "on, behind, or over the contents of a Book or portion thereof." It is well known that Google's advertising revenue depends on its ability to target advertising to its customers, and such targeted advertising would be facilitated by a Google Account login that allows it to create a detailed profile of the user, based on all of the Google products he uses, including Google Books. The Settlement does nothing to prevent this.
The institutional subscription described in the Settlement does not allow for any more anonymity than the individual user account. The Settlement states that, for institutional subscriptions, Google will "limit access to Books to appropriate individuals within the subscriber institution." To do so, Google will need to obtain borrower data from the libraries. Google does this to authenticate and identify users, but this mechanism aids Google's collection and storage of user data by allowing Google to connect users - even those using institutional subscriptions instead of individual ones - with particular books and searches.
Additionally, when users of the institutional subscription database print out book pages, Google will include a visible watermark that "displays encrypted session identifying information provided by the subscribing institution during such session, and which could be used to identify the authorized user that printed the material or the access point from which the material was printed." In order to place this watermark, Google must necessarily collect personally identifiable information of each user. Thus, Google can collect vast records of user information, even when the user accesses Google Books at the library, through the institutional subscription.
The Settlement Does Not Guarantee that this Personally Identifiable Information Will be Protected
The settlement does not place any restrictions on Google's collection, storage, or use of personally identifiable information that is obtained from users when they access books using either consumer purchases or institutional subscriptions.
Nothing in the current Settlement terms prevents Google from requiring all users to obtain a Google Account as a condition of accessing the book search service. In fact, the Settlement explicitly authorizes Google's use of an "account login" to authenticate users.
Additionally, the settlement places no restrictions on Google's use of borrower data from libraries. Because the Settlement also does not limit Google's use of consumer purchase data, the Settlement does not prevent Google from combining a user's Borrower and Purchaser records to make connections between a particular user's borrower and purchaser history.
The Settlement also places no restrictions on Google's or the Rights Registry's use of user-created book annotation.
The Settlement also fails to restrict these entities' use of the personal information that identifies the twenty-five individuals with whom a reader may share his or her book annotations.
The Settlement places no restrictions on data that is used to create visible watermarks that are placed on institutional subscription printouts and can be used to individually identify users. The settlement does not clearly state what information would be collected to create the watermarks, the amount of this information that may be maintained by Google, and the length of time that Google or a participating library may maintain this personal information.
Finally, although the Settlement requires Google to provide the Rights Registry with usage data, it places no limitations on how specific the collected data will. It also does not limit the extent to which Google and libraries will provide readers' personally identifiable information to the Rights Registry. The settlement only restricts Google's transfer of rightsholders' personally identifiable information.
The digital book system established by the Settlement will dramatically change how individuals will obtain access to information in the digital age. Readers will be required to disclose sensitive, personal information that the parties will collect and store, and link to other services that will enable the creation of detailed, secret profiles on individuals who seek access to digital works. The Settlement places no meaningful limits on how the parties obtain, use, or disclose readers’ information. Although the Settlement requires Google to provide the Rights Registry with usage data, it places no limitations on what kinds of data will be collected and reported to the Rights Registry - or how specific that data will be. It also does not limit the extent to which Google and libraries will provide readers’ personally identifiable information to the Rights Registry.
EPIC has done extensive work in the areas of consumer privacy protection. EPIC has testified before the United States Senate about online tracking and cookies, has engaged in online public information campaigns about consumer profiling, and has filed FTC complaints in a variety of consumer protection topics, including the Google/DoubleClick merger. EPIC has also represented consumer privacy interests in class action settlements. In In re DoubleClick Inc. Privacy Litigation, EPIC was granted the opportunity to address the court on the privacy impact of a proposed settlement concerning online advertising and the collection and use of personal data. As a result of Mirfasihi v. Fleet Mortgage Corp., EPIC also received a substantial cy pres award from another Federal District Court in support of EPIC’s ongoing work to address emerging consumer privacy issues.
The Author's Guild et al v. Google Inc., 05-08136 (S.D.N.Y. filed Sept. 20, 2005).
- EPIC's Motion to Intervene
- EPIC's Objections
- Privacy Authors' and Publishers' Objections to the Proposed Settlement (ACLU, EFF, etc.)
- Sept. 3, 2009 Letter Addressed to Judge Denny Chin from Pamela Samuelson (Berkeley Law)
- U.S. Department of Justice Brief
- The Proposed Settlement Agreement
- Justice Department to Google Books: Close, but no Cigar, Wired, February 5, 2010.
- U.S. Voices Concerns on Google Book Pact, The Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2010.
- Opponents Line Up on Revised Google Book Deal, Silicon Valley/San Joes Business Journal, January 28, 2010.
- Amazon and Others Slam Revised Google Books Deal, The Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2010.
- Judge Sets November 9 Deadline for Revised Google Books Settlement, The New York Times, October 7, 2009.
- Postponement for the Google Books Settlement, Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2009 .
- Authors, Publishers Seek to Delay in Google Case, Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2009.
- Government Urges Changes to Google Books Deal, The New York Times, September 18, 2009.
- German Government Opposes Google Book Settlement, Bloomberg, September 1, 2009.
- EU Commissioner Praises Google Books Project, Internet News, August 31, 2009.
- Privacy Missing From Google Books Settlement, Computing SA, August 31, 2009.
- More Questions Than Answers on Google Books, CNET News, August 29, 2009.
- Google Book Search Settlement Plans Questioned, San Francisco Chronicle, August 29, 2009.
- UC Berkeley Librarian Wants Google Books to Nail Down Privacy Commitments, Baynewser, August 28, 2009.
- How Google is Leveraging Our Culture, Forbes, August 28, 2009.
- Sony and Amazon Face Off Over Google Books Deal, The New York Times, August 28, 2009.
- Open Books Alliance to Oppose Google Book Deal, CNET News, August 26, 2009.
- ALA and Allies Should Request More Access in Google Books Settlement, The Library Journal, August 25, 2009.
- Urban Libraries Council Calls for Major Changes in Google Books Settlement, The Library Journal, August 24, 2009.
- Tech heavyweights attempt to close the book on Google, Brisbane Times, Brisbane Times, August 24, 2009.
- Is Google book deal a threat to privacy?, Washington Examiner, August 21, 2009.
- Google Rivals Will Oppose Book Settlement, The New York Times, August 20, 2009.
- Lawyer and Author Adds His Objections to Settling the Google Book Lawsuit, The New York Times, August 18, 2009.
- Google-Publishers Deal Raises Privacy Concerns, NPR, August 12, 2009.
- Library Organizations Urge Department of Justice to Take Proctive Role in Google Books Settlement, The Library Journal, August 6, 2009.
- The Google Book Search Case -- for Dummies, BNET Media, August 5, 2009.
- Google’s Big Plan for Books, The New York Times, July 29, 2009.
- EU sets hearing over Google books deal , The Washington Post, July 21, 2009.
- UT, Google alter digital books deal, The Daily Texan, July 13, 2009.
- The long term plans for Google world domination, Pandia, July 10, 2009.
- Irate Japanese authors see Google Book Search as 'black ships' of digital era, The Mainichi Daily News, July 10, 2009.
- Libraries and Google Amend Book Search Agreement, The University of Texas at Austin, July 9, 2009.
- DOJ confirms Google Books investigation, ZDNet, July 6, 2009.
- Google's Dark Day, Reuters, July 6, 2009.
- Justice Looking Into Google E-Books Deal, The Washington Post, July 3, 2009.
- U.S. Probes Google's $125 Million Book-Scanning Settlement, Bloomberg, July 3, 2009.
- U.S. Inquiry Is Confirmed Into Google Books Deal, The New York Times, July 2, 2009.
- Congress pressed to act on Google book settlement, Financial Times, June 30, 2009.
- Publisher: Google book settlement flawed, but essential, Ars Technica, June 30, 2009.
- Authors Guild defends Google Books settlement, Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2009.
- Leader of Authors Guild Defends Google Book Settlement, New York Times, June 24, 2009.
- Judge pushes Google book settlement hearing date to October from June, Washington Examiner, June 20, 2009.
- New Features on Google Books, Official Google Blog, June 18, 2009.
- Google Books Adds New Features And Tools, The Washington Post, June 18, 2009.
- Bezos: We've got issues with Google Book Search, CNET News, June 15, 2009.
- U.S. state AGs looking at Google books deal, The Washington Post, May 8, 2009.
- Google Book-Search Pact Draws Antitrust Scrutiny, The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2009.
- Justice Dept. Opens Antitrust Inquiry Into Google Books Deal, New York Times, April 28, 2009.
- Internet Archive wants book copyright indemnity like Google, Ars Technica, April 19, 2009.
- Opposition to Google Books Settlement Jells, The New York Times, April 17, 2009.
- From the Mailbag: Illustrating your point with a book, Inside Google Book Search, April 16, 2009.
- Google Book settlement faces legal assault, CNET News, April 10, 2009.
- The Google Book Deal Will Help, Not Hurt, Authors, The Wall Street Journal, April 3, 2009.
- Authors to Google Book Search: Pay up! CNET News, February 11, 2009.
- Google's Book Settlement Is a Ripoff for Authors, The Wall Street Journal, March 28, 2009.
- Google Settles Suit Over Book-Scanning, The New York Times, October 28, 2008.
- Book info where you need it, when you need it, The Official Google Blog, March 13, 2008.
- Google: These books are free, CNET News, August 30, 2006.
- Google Book Search Offers Free Downloads of Public Domain Books, Google Press Release, August 30, 2006.
- Pick up you library pass to Google, The Official Google Blog, May 30, 2006.
- Discovering hard to find books, The Official Google Blog, October 31, 2005.
- Google Checks Out Library Books, Google Press Release, December 14, 2004.
Share this page:
EPIC relies on support from individual donors to pursue our work.
Subscribe to the EPIC Alert
The EPIC Alert is a biweekly newsletter highlighting emerging privacy issues.
In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate by Nancy Gertner