SAN FRANCISCO - Google ( GOOG) has settled a three-year class action lawsuit with authors and publishers, paving the way for more books to be available online.

The Internet giant agreed to pay $125 million to cover legal fees incurred by the lawsuit as well as to set up the Book Rights Registry, a not-for-profit that will work with authors, publishers and other rightsholders to ensure they receive any money owed to them for their works under the agreement.

The settlement is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

If approved, the agreement will allow readers in the U.S. to search through millions of in-copyright books, including hard-to-find out-of print works, and preview them online. It will also give them the option to purchase online access to many of these books.

"While this agreement is a real win-win for all of us, the real victors are all the readers," said Google co-founder Sergey Brin in a statement. "The tremendous wealth of knowledge that lies within the books of the world will now be at their fingertips."

Google launched Book Search in 2004, which today enables readers to search full texts of more than a million books online.

In 2005, the Authors Guild filed a lawsuit against Google, which was consolidated with another case filed by five major publishers into a class-action suit. In it, they challenged Google's efforts to digitize, search and offer previews of text without the explicit permission of copyright owners.

"It's hard work writing a book, and even harder work getting paid for it," said Roy Blount, president of the Authors Guild, in a statement. "As a reader and researcher, I'll be delighted to stop by my local library to browse the stacks of some of the world's great libraries. As an author, well, we appreciate payment when people use our work. This deal makes good sense."

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