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Publishers Paste Google

Updated from 11:35 a.m.

Book publishers sued Google (GOOG - Get Report), escalating a nasty spat over the search-engine giant's ambitious book-indexing project.

The Association of American Publishers said it sued the Mountain View, Calif., Internet giant Wednesday morning after talks broke down. The suit seeks a declaration by the court that Google commits infringement when it scans entire books covered by copyright, and a court order preventing it from doing so without permission of copyright owners. Google has said its book-indexing plans are covered by the so-called fair use doctrine.

Plaintiffs include McGraw-Hill (MHP), Pearson (PSO) and its Penguin Group USA, Viacom's (VIAB - Get Report) Simon & Schuster and John Wiley & Sons (JWB).

"The publishing industry is united behind this lawsuit against Google and united in the fight to defend their rights," said AAP President Patricia Schroeder. "While authors and publishers know how useful Google's search engine can be and think the Print Library could be an excellent resource, the bottom line is that under its current plan Google is seeking to make millions of dollars by freeloading on the talent and property of authors and publishers."

Wednesday afternoon, Google fired back at the publishers, saying, "This short-sighted attempt to block Google Print works counter to the interests of not just the world's readers, but also the world's authors and publishers."

The publishers are only the latest group to weigh in against Google's print plans. Two weeks ago Sunnyvale, Calif., rival Yahoo! (YHOO - Get Report) announced an alliance that will seek authorization from copyright holders to use their material -- the very thing Google has said it doesn't need to do. And content scanned through the Yahoo! project will be available on all search engines, in contrast to Google's Print initiative, whose content will be found only on Google.

On Wednesday, the publishers said they had proposed that Google use the ISBN numbering system to identify works under copyright and secure permission from publishers and authors. "Google flatly rejected this reasonable proposal," the publishers said, adding, "Google left our members no choice but to file this suit."
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