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Artists Want Share of Google Books Profit

MANHATTAN (CN) - Photographers, artists and illustrators say Google owes them billions of dollars for scanning their images and posting them in a massive digital library in violation of copyright law. The artists call Google Books the "most widespread, well-publicized, and uncompensated infringement of exclusive rights in images in the history of book and periodical publishing."

Google has already copied 12 million books, and intends to copy university library collections and "ultimately all the books in the world," the copyright owners claim in a class action in Federal Court.

The artists say Google has contracts with the universities of California, Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin, and Stanford University, to create digital archives of their library collections.

"Google has also 'partnered' with various book and periodical publishers to electronically copy books and periodicals that have been published," the class claims.

"Google itself has conceded that it has already scanned over 12 million books in their entirety and has identified 174 million books that it may similarly reproduce, distribute, and publicly display," the lawsuit states.

The visual artists say Google profits from their copyrighted images by posting them online, attracting more viewers and advertisers to its Web site. Google derives 98 percent of its profits from advertising, and reported $23.6 billion in profits last year, according to the complaint.

The artists say Google wants to sell subscriptions to its database and make money off print-on-demand services, PDF downloads, and the sale of book summaries, abstracts and compilations.

They demand $180,000 per infringed work and an order halting Google's alleged "brazen acts of willful copyright infringement." They also want a declaration that Google's digital scanning projects violate the Copyright Act.

Plaintiffs include the American Society of Media Photographers, the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photography Association and Professional Photographers of America.

They are represented by James McGuire with Mishcon de Reya New York LLP.

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