Google Inc. (GOOG), responding to an outcry by publishers, has temporarily scaled back plans to make the full text of copyrighted books in five of the world's great libraries searchable via the Internet.
Google, the world's most popular way of searching the Internet, will allow copyright holders who contact the company to withhold books from the project, said Adam Smith, program manager of the Google Print (search) program.
For three months, Google will stop scanning copyrighted books to allow owners to inform the company of objections.
"Any and all copyright holders ... can tell us which books they'd prefer that we not scan if we find them in a library," Adam Smith, the product manager of Google Print, said in a statement on Google's corporate Web site.
Nonetheless, Google is moving ahead with its ambitious project to work with publishers and librarians to scan books in the public domain that are not covered by copyright, he said.
Libraries participating in the program include Oxford University (search), Harvard University (search), the New York Public Library, Stanford University (search) and the University of Michigan (search).
The Google spokesman declined to comment on how many book titles are now searchable on the Google Print site, which works by typing the name of an author, a book title or a word or phrase into a Web search box at http://print.google.com/.
Google is working with publishers large and small to encourage them to make their books searchable. In exchange, Google can create distinct pages for each book with advertising and links to retailers. As a further inducement, publishers can create a direct sales link to consumers for their titles.
"We are really excited about the scope of this program and the good it will do for the world," Smith said in a telephone interview. Google said that virtually all major U.S. and U.K. publishers are participating, at least in part, in Google Print.
Critics of the program said that Google's plan to allow copyright holders to indicate whether they wish to opt out of the Google Print project switches the burden of upholding copyright from infringers to the copyright holders.
"This really stands copyright law on its head," Patricia Schroeder, president and chief executive of the Association of American Publishers (search), said in a phone interview. "There are hundreds of years of tradition that go the other way."
"Google's announcement does nothing to relieve the publishing industry's concerns," said Schroeder, a former congresswoman from Colorado.
Smith replied that Google is extending the logic of searching for online materials to printed books to make them more accessible.
"What we are doing here is legal under the principles of fair use," he said.
Schroeder said her organization and Google had been unable to come to terms on a proposal to address the concerns of copyright holders.
Smith said Google was continuing to talk with organizations of publishers, authors and other interested parties to strike a balance between the interests of publishers and readers.