Yes, I said it. Give the kajillion-dollar company a break. This book scanning thing is getting completely out of hand. I want Google to make money. I want them to make lots of it because that means that all of the services I use for free will remain free. It also means that they will have the capital to keep moving forward with bringing millions of books into the digital (and public) domain and advance the technology that will help electronic texts go mainstream.
Ars Technica outlined the US Copyright Office's major objections to the settlements that Google is seeking through the courts to bring their book scanning project out of litigation. A key quote from the Copyright Office's brief goes like this:
We realized that the settlement was not really a settlement at all, in as much as settlements resolve acts that have happened in the past and were at issue in the underlying infringement suits. Instead, the so-called settlement would create mechanisms by which Google could continue to scan with impunity, well into the future, and to our great surprise, create yet additional commercial products without the prior consent of rights holders...
I'm no lawyer, but all I can muster out of this is a shrug. Particularly when Google turned around and offered revenue mechanisms to their competitors today based on the scanning work that Google will complete in the coming years. Suddenly, it won't matter if you have a Kindle, a Sony Reader, or an EPUB-capable smartphone. You'll be able to access the scanned books from Google and someone (whether authors, Google, or Amazon) will make some money.
Google's efforts are a win all around for education. Call me a Google fanboy if you must, but anyone making millions of texts available electronically (and potentially providing revenue and publication outlets for my own books in progress) is aces in my book.